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Gun battle ends in death of shooting suspect

Bystander also hurt on Riverside Freeway. Police say it began when the man shot an officer early Sunday.

June 24, 2008|My-Thuan Tran and Francisco Vara-Orta | Times Staff Writers

It started with an officer being shot and ended in a classic only-in-L.A. moment when a man with a gun darted back and forth across the busy Riverside Freeway in a shootout with police that resulted in the gunman being killed and a motorist wounded in the crossfire.

By the time commuters hit the road Monday morning, the first-of-the-week crush in Orange County had already been badly snarled.

The eastbound lanes of the freeway were closed for nine hours until mid-morning, traffic was detoured onto local streets, and motorists scrambled to make last-minute changes to their commutes.

Even by the standards of Southern California, where motorists will tolerate near gridlock at rush hour, it was nightmarish.

Karol Potter said she left her Menifee home at 4:15 a.m. and heard over the radio about the freeway closures. She and her carpool partner quickly decided to take the Fastrak route onto another freeway instead of taking the westbound 91.

"It cost us $4 today," she said. "But we made it to work on time."

The ordeal started Sunday morning when an Anaheim police officer was shot in the leg, leading to the high-speed police chase along the 91 in west Orange County shortly after midnight.

Officers attempted to pull over the suspect as he fled east in his silver Honda east on the 91 Freeway near the 605, said Anaheim police Sgt. Rick Martinez. The man continued weaving through traffic at high speeds. He hit a traffic jam near Brookhurst Street and rear-ended avehicle, disabling his own car.

The man, armed with a handgun, then climbed out of his vehicle. Police said he took cover behind other cars and started firing at officers. At least two officers fired back.

The man was shot and declared dead at the scene, officials said.

An unidentified female motorist who was shot in the elbow and abdomen during the gun battle was taken to UCI Medical Center in Orange and was expected to survive.

It was not immediately clear who shot her, Martinez said. No officers were injured.

The gunman's entanglement with police actually began about 7:50 a.m. Sunday, officials said, when the suspect was seen allegedly exposing himself to children and adults through the window of a Best Western hotel in the 2000 block of Harbor Boulevard near Disneyland.

When two officers arrived at the motel to investigate, the man got into his Honda and exchanged gunfire with police.

One of the officers was hit in the leg. The injury was considered non-life-threatening.

Police spent the next 16 hours trying to identify the man and find him, Martinez said.

"It took a long time to determine who the room was registered to and whether it was in fact the same person who was committing the indecent exposure," he said.

Officers eventually spotted his Honda on the freeway near midnight.

Anaheim police declined to identify the suspect, but Martinez said he had a $1 million warrant out for his arrest.

Law enforcement officials, who did not want to be identified because they were not authorized to release the information, said the suspect was David Michael Abrams, a 40-year-old with a long criminal history. He was sent to state prison for 12 years in 1996 for burglary, but was released on parole in 2006.

Authorities have had a warrant out for him since May for violating his parole, when his location became unknown.

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my-thuan.tran@latimes.com

francisco.varaorta@latimes.com

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