An off-duty cop with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) was fatally shot by a suspected gang member after he tried to confront a group of vandals in the city’s Lincoln Heights neighborhood.
Officer Juan Jose Diaz, 24, was with his girlfriend and her two brothers eating at a taco stand in Lincoln Heights around 1 a.m. Saturday when he noticed a group of people allegedly vandalizing a nearby property, KABC reported.
When the officer asked the suspected vandals to stop, one of the men identified himself as a gang member and told him that the property was his territory. That same gang member reportedly threatened Diaz with a gun.
To avoid escalating the situation, Diaz and his companions tried to get into their vehicle to flee the scene before the self-described gang member started shooting.
The shooting killed the off-duty cop and injured one other man.
Assistant Police Chief Beatrice Girmala confirmed Diaz’s death at a 6 a.m. press conference. Democrat Mayor Eric Garcetti later said in a statement that the slain officer worked in the department’s Professional Standards Bureau.
“The senseless murder of Officer Juan Diaz is a shocking reminder of the dangers that LAPD officers face every moment they wear the badge, and the absolute courage and selflessness with which they uphold the oath each day,” Garcetti said, expressing his condolences to Diaz’s family and friends.
Tonight we gathered to honor a man who dedicated himself to our city—A man whose passion was LA. There were hugs & tears—but we held our heads high as we paid tribute to his dedication to something greater than himself. Tonight our HQ Facility is proud to have Juan front & center pic.twitter.com/9mRZVZfyQV
— LAPD HQ (@LAPDHQ) July 28, 2019
Dozens of family, friends and fellow officers have gathered for a vigil in front of @LAPDHQ tonight to honor Officer Juan Diaz. The 24-year-old off-duty #LAPD officer was killed early this morning in Lincoln Heights. @KTLA pic.twitter.com/zNzEGddjAt
— Carlos Saucedo (@Carlos_Saucedo) July 28, 2019
We mourn the tragic loss of a young officer killed in an act of senseless violence and ask for our community's support in finding his killer.
— Chief Michel Moore (@LAPDChiefMoore) July 27, 2019
Police believe the suspected gunman belonged to the Avenues gang, which is the focus of the LAPD’s investigation, according to one law enforcement official.
LAPD said it would not release any information about the other suspected gang members or the injured man’s identity and condition.
No arrests have been made as of Monday.