As if we needed further reminding of the dangers of our profession, as the manhunt for the early morning gunman was still underway, a few miles away an LAPD officer was shot in the face and neck while searching an attic during a probation-compliance check. The officer is expected to survive, but he faces a long ordeal of reconstructive surgeries. (A probation officer was also shot but his wounds were not serious. After a long standoff with a SWAT team, the gunman was found dead from gunshot wounds in the attic.)
And once again, like the detectives entering the parking lot, there is little this officer could have done to avoid being shot. We sometimes use mirrors to check attics and crawl spaces, and SWAT teams have cameras for the same purpose, but these tools only take you so far. Eventually, someone has to be the one to poke his head into the attic, where anyone waiting with a gun has the perfect opportunity to take a shot.
Some years ago I was searching a business in downtown L.A. for a burglar I was certain had long since fled. But the business owner was there so my partner and I conducted a pro forma search for his benefit. Much to my surprise, tucked in among the boxes and other debris in the attic was the burglar I had assumed was already safe at home. If he had had both a gun and the will to use it, I never would have seen it coming.
The FBI reported that 54,774 American police officers were assaulted in 2011, the most recent statistics available, with 26.6 percent of them suffering injuries. A cop can’t go to work thinking everyone he meets is out to hurt him, but neither can he forget that some of them are.