A man has been charged in connection with the ambush-style shooting of two Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies earlier this month in Southern California, CBS Los Angeles reports. Sheriff Alex Villanueva and LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced the arrest of Deonte Lee Murray at a news conference Wednesday morning.
During a court appearance Wednesday afternoon, the 36-year-old Murray pleaded not guilty to two counts each of premeditated attempted murder of a peace officer and possession of a firearm by a felon. His photo is not being released to protect the ongoing investigation.
The two sheriff’s deputies were shot in an unprovoked ambush on September 12 while sitting in their patrol car in Compton. The deputies, a 31-year-old mother and a 24-year-old man, were rushed to St. Francis Medical Center in critical condition. Both survived and have since been released from the hospital.
Murray has been behind bars since September 15, when he was arrested in connection with an unrelated incident, a carjacking in Compton on September 1 in which he allegedly shot a man in the leg with a high-powered rifle and stole his black Mercedes-Benz. He was charged two days later with one felony count each of carjacking, second-degree robbery and assault with a semi-automatic firearm for that incident and pleaded not guilty.
Two additional charges stemming from the earlier crime — attempted murder and possession of a firearm by a felon — have since been added, prosecutors said. Murray’s bail was increased from just over $1 million to $6.15 million as a result of the new charges.
Investigators said forensic evidence linked Murray to the shooting of the two deputies.
A “ghost gun” — a build-it-yourself firearm that doesn’t have a serial number or require a background check — used in the shooting of the deputies was recovered by investigators, Sheriff’s Captain Kent Wegener told reporters.
Murray left the scene of the deputies’ shooting in a black Mercedes-Benz sedan, the same vehicle that had been carjacked on September 1, Wegener said.
Prior to his capture, investigators suspected that Murray may have been responsible for both the carjacking and the deputies’ shooting.
“The carjacking suspect’s photograph, when compared to the suspect’s image in the surveillance video of the attempted murder, strengthened the possibility that he was involved,” Wegener said.
Detectives located Murray at around 11:30 a.m. on September 15, but he fled in a 2006 Toyota Solara. During the pursuit, he threw a pistol from the car, police said.
He then ditched the car and ran, and law enforcement officers swarmed the area. Several hours later, just before 10 p.m., Murray was found hiding in some bushes and was apprehended, Wegener said.
Wegener said that ballistic and forensic evidence from the scene of the deputies’ ambush linked that shooting to the ghost gun which Murray had thrown from the car during the chase.
“It was determined through ballistic comparison, that the pistol recovered was the pistol used to shoot the deputies, additionally that pistol was conclusively linked through forensic testing to suspect Deonte Murray,” Wegener said Wednesday.
Murray’s ghost gun was loaded with eight rounds when it was recovered, Wegener said, and the gun is capable of holding 13. There were five shots fired at the two deputies on the night of the ambush.
Murray has an extensive criminal history that includes convictions for sales of narcotics, firearm possession by a felon, burglary and terrorist threats. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted as charged. He is due back in court November 17.