WEST COVINA >> A manhunt continued Saturday for a gunman who shot and wounded a West Covina police officer Friday night, authorities said.
The shooting took place about 11:20 p.m. along Yaleton Avenue, just north of Badillo Street.
“There is an officer down. He was struck by gunfire,” Deputy Trina Schrader of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau said.
The officer had approached the gunman as he rode a bike through the neighborhood, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
“The contact (led) to a gun fight between the officer and the suspect,” Schrader said. “At that time, the officer sustained a gunshot wound to the upper torso.”
It was unclear whether the assailant — later identified by sheriff’s investigators as 47-year-old Jose Louis Chavez, had been wounded in the exchange of gunfire.
Sheriff’s deputies, as well as officers from police agencies throughout the region rushed to the scene to help in a search for the suspect, who remained at large Saturday afternoon. Police K-9s, bloodhounds, helicopters and three SWAT teams joined in the search.
“We had help from pretty much every agency in the San Gabriel Valley,” West Covina Police Chief David Faulkner said.
Officials wound down their neighborhood search Saturday afternoon. The suspect remained at large.
Chavez is described as Latino, 6 feet 1 inch tall, 225 pounds, with his left eyebrow pierced, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement. “He should be considered armed and dangerous.”
The wounded officer, a 9-year law enforcement veteran with more than an year on-duty with the West Covina Police Department, was expected to survive, Faulkner said.
The bullet struck the officer in the abdomen, beneath his bullet-proof vest, the chief said. It penetrated through the officer and exited his body.
Remarkably, “The round didn’t hit any of his major organs,” the chief said.
“At this point, certainly, I can say that God was on his side.”
Initial plans for emergency surgery were placed on hold, and possibly cancelled, after it was discovered the officer’s major organs were spared by the bullet, he said.
The officer was conscious, alert and in good spirits at a hospital Saturday, accompanied by family members, Faulkner said. His identity was not released.
“He’s experiences, respected and he did a great job under the circumstances,” Faulkner said of the wounded officer.
The chief also praised the work of officers and deputies in the aftermath of the shooting and thanked the community for an outpouring of support.
Further details, including a detailed suspect description, were not available.
Badillo Street remained shut down between Sunset and Orange avenues, as well as Sunset Avenue at Badillo Street, as the investigation and manhunt continued Saturday afternoon.
Anyone with information can reach sheriff’s homicide detectives, who are assisting West Covina police in the investigating, at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.