L.A. County Sheriff Details Forensic and Ballistic Evidence Linking Deonte Murray to Deputy Ambush Shooting

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department press conference on September 30, 2020. Screenshot, YouTube

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department press conference on September 30, 2020. Screenshot, YouTube

As I reported earlier, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva held a press conference Wednesday morning announcing the arrest of Deonte Lee Murray for the ambush/attempted murder of two deputies who were sitting in their patrol vehicle outside a Metro station in Compton. Villanueva was joined at the presser by District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Homicide Bureau Captain Kent Wegener. Wegener painstakingly recounted the steps in the investigation leading to Murray’s arrest, the forensic and other evidence authorities relied upon, and that the investigation is ongoing.

If what Wegener described is true, authorities have a solid case against Murray and he will probably spend the rest of his life in prison. But none of that impressed the assembled Los Angeles press corps, who instead were butthurt that they’d supposedly been led astray in earlier press conferences and that neither Wegener nor Villanueva would answer detailed questions about the ongoing investigation, so they spent the Q and A time berating the two. (I’ll highlight their stupidity in a separate piece.)

Let’s review the timeline and evidence Wegener presented.

On September 12, the night of the shooting, LASD advised the public that a lone male gunman ran from the scene and drove away in a black Mercedes-Benz sedan. Within hours of the shooting, investigators discovered that a black Mercedes-Benz sedan had been stolen during a violent carjacking September 1 in Compton, on a street just a few miles from the Blue Line station where the ambush shooting occurred. In that incident, the 51-year-old victim was shot in the leg with a high-powered rifle by a black male suspect, and the vehicle had not been recovered. It doesn’t take a detective to see that the two crimes could be related, and indeed, LASD investigators believed that by solving the carjacking case, they could solve the deputy shooting case too. Capt. Wegener said:

“The carjacking was investigated, a suspect was subsequently identified, and an arrest warrant was obtained for…Deonte Lee Murray, a 36-year-old black…for carjacking and assault with a deadly weapon.”

Murray has a lengthy criminal record, including “felony convictions for sales and possession of narcotics, two separate convictions for firearm possession by a felon or an addict, receiving stolen property, burglary, terrorist threats,” and authorities are on record saying there was a “gang-related nexus” to the carjacking case. He has no known address (not even his mom’s basement) but is known to frequent certain areas in and around Compton, making it more difficult and resource-intensive to locate him. Wegener described how they located Murray:

“Surveillance deputies from our Major Crimes Bureau and Operation Safe Streets were provided with the felony arrest warrant and dispatched to locations associated with that suspect. On Tuesday, September 15, units…located the suspect and attempted to stop him in a vehicle. The suspect fled in a 2006 Toyota Solara, which Major Crimes detectives pursued.”

Other units, including a helicopter, quickly joined the pursuit, during which Murray threw a pistol from the car. The pistol was recovered by Sheriff’s deputies and held as evidence. Eventually, Murray ditched the car in Lynwood, fled on foot, and was finally located in a trash can with the help of an LASD K-9 around 10 p.m. As a bonus, the black Mercedes-Benz Murray stole was also in the area, and LASD deputies secured it to be processed as evidence.

That chase was big news in Los Angeles, with many people, including the press corps, believing it had something to do with the search for the deputy shooting suspect. At the time, LASD spokespeople told the press that “at this point, no,” they didn’t believe that the carjacking suspect was related “in any way” to the shooting of the deputies.

Murray was charged with carjacking and assault with a deadly weapon and booked into jail, then homicide detectives obtained a search warrant for the Mercedes-Benz. The Benz was searched and processed forensically (think fingerprints, hair, blood, bodily fluids, etc) and a forensic firearms report was completed and published (internally). Wegener reported:

“This [report] compared ballistic evidence from the scene of the attempted murder on the deputies to the pistol which was discarded by suspect Murray during the pursuit. It was determined through ballistic comparison that the pistol recovered was the pistol used to shoot the Transit Services Deputies. Additionally, that pistol was conclusively linked through forensic testing to suspect Deonte Murray.

The firearm in evidence is desribed as an 80 percenter, a ghost gun, a 40-caliber pistol loaded with eight rounds, five rounds short of its full capacity. There were five rounds fired at the deputies.

Since then, investigators have collected dozens of video clips from throughout the vicinity around the time of the attempted murder of the deputies….Many of these video clips document the suspect’s travels prior to the shooting, during the assault, and through the time that the Mercedes-Benz was abandoned in the City of Lynwood.

Criminalists from the Sheriff’s Department crime lab continue the forensic testing of evidence collected from the involved vehicles and additional evidence recovered at the scenes.

After that investigation, in which LASD investigators worked with Deputy District Attorneys in the Crimes Against Peace Officers division, the decision was made to charge Murray with two counts of willful, deliberate, and premeditated attempted murder of a peace officer.

One thing missing from the news conference was a mug shot, and here’s why:

“As additional witnesses are identified, interviews are being conducted. As a part of these interviews, photographic lineups may be conducted involving the suspect’s image. In consideration of the ongoing investigation, we are not yet releasing photographs of the suspect. The court of record in the carjacking/assault with a deadly weapon case has ordered that the suspect’s photograph not be released, and we are complying with that.”

At this point, investigators believe Murray acted alone, and the investigation is ongoing. Remember those words, “at this point.”

Update on ambush shooting of two deputies in Compton

DEPUTIES SHOT UPDATE: Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and District Attorney Jackie Lacey will be providing an update on the investigation into the ambush shooting of two on-duty deputies in Compton. STORY: https://bit.ly/3nd9R5B

Posted by Fox 11 Los Angeles on Wednesday, September 30, 2020