LOS ANGELES, California – An off-duty police officer who was fatally shot early Saturday morning in the Lincoln Heights area northeast of downtown Los Angeles was killed apparently after confronting men who were possibly tagging a building or business, law enforcement sources told NBC4.
Officer Juan Jose Diaz had been on the department for approximately 2 years, the law enforcement sources said. Diaz was assigned to the Special Operations Division unit of the Professional Standards Bureau, or internal affairs, though all indications were that the shooting was unrelated to his secretive work, the sources told NBC4.
“Officer Diaz was a dedicated public servant and Angeleno that put service to others above all else,” the department said in a tweet. “The void his loss leaves within our ranks will not soon be filled.”
The shooting occurred at about 1 a.m. near the intersection of Avenue 26 and Humboldt Street. A person traveling with the officer was hospitalized, but expected to survive.
A person who flagged down police at the scene told officers shots had been fired in the area. The officer died at the scene.
Law enforcement sources said it appears Diaz was killed after he confronted a group of men who were possibly tagging a building or business. The group of men left, then returned, and began shooting.
Diaz was found in a dark color truck, according to LAPD detective Meghan Aguilar. He was in the company of another man and a woman when the shooting happened.
Aguilar said Diaz did not exchange gunfire with his attackers.
No arrests were reported Saturday morning. A procession was held from the site of the shooting to the coroner’s office.
The Special Operations Division of which Diaz was a part conducts surveillance of police officers suspected of wrongdoing, and one group conducts sting operations to detect if officers behave lawfully and within policy during staged radio calls and interactions with undercover officers. Sometimes officers who recently graduated from the police academy are recruited, as their names and faces are largely unknown to most personnel.
“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,” said Chief Michel Moore, who is out of the country.
The California Highway Patrol has closed the Avenue 26 offramp from the northbound 5 Freeway for an unknown duration, and several nearby streets are also blocked as the investigation continues.
“Angelenos are waking to the tragic news that one of our own @LAPDHQ officers was taken from us in a senseless murder,” Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted in a statement Saturday morning. “Words cannot match our sorrow or ease the shock we feel over this reminder of the dangers that officers face every moment they wear the badge.
“This City will stand with the officer’s family every step of the way, and will not rest until we find and prosecute a vicious killer. My Crisis Response Team has been sent to comfort and assist the family at this moment of unthinkable grief.”