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Home / wounded deputy

Wounded deputy testifies in trial of man charged with shooting her

By Terri Vermeulen Keith

A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy testified Tuesday that she heard gunshots and that her vision went blank for a few seconds after she and her partner were shot as they sat in their patrol vehicle outside a Compton transit center in an attack caught on surveillance video.

Wearing a sheriff’s uniform while on the stand, Deputy Claudia Apolinar told the Compton jury hearing the case against Deonte Lee Murray that she didn’t immediately know where she had been shot but felt a “warm sensation in my mouth” and tried to speak over a police radio to report what had happened to her and her partner on Sept. 12, 2020.

She told jurors that she felt her tongue flapping around in her mouth and that the dispatcher was having difficulty understanding her plea for assistance.

“I knew I was hit in the mouth,” Apolinar, the mother of a then 6-year-old child, told jurors.

She said she subsequently tried to help her partner, Emmanuel Perez-Perez, who was struggling to put a tourniquet on after she saw his face and right arm covered in blood.

“I didn’t know where the suspect was at, if he was going to come back,” the deputy told jurors, saying later that she did not see who he was and that neither she nor her partner fired any shots in response.

Surveillance video shows the gunman walking up to the passenger side of the sheriff’s vehicle, firing and then quickly fleeing, then Apolinar subsequently coming to her partner’s aid and the two — both of their uniforms stained with blood — hurrying to a waiting patrol vehicle that rushed them to a hospital.

She said she later learned that one round struck her in the jaw and “nearly cut my tongue off” and that she also suffered gunshot wounds to both of her arms, which were broken in the shooting. The deputy said she still has scars on both of her arms and her face from the attack, and that she returned to work at the sheriff’s department last September.

Jurors are also expected to hear from Apolinar’s partner, who was shot in the forehead and an arm.

Deputy District Attorney Stephen Lonseth told jurors in his opening statement that Murray “lost it” after sheriff’s deputies shot and killed his best friend, Sam Herrera, while serving a search warrant in Compton two days before Apolinar and Perez-Perez were ambushed.

“He sought to take out revenge,” the prosecutor said of the now 39-year-old defendant.

Murray allegedly “unloaded over and over again” by firing later that day upon a man he mistakenly believed was a detective in an unmarked car near the Compton courthouse, then fleeing in a black Mercedes that had been carjacked on Sept. 1, 2020, from a man who was shot in the leg with a rifle, Lonseth told the panel.

The defendant — who allegedly abandoned the Mercedes near an elementary school — was arrested Sept. 15, 2020, after leading police on a chase in which he tossed a “ghost gun” from the Toyota Solara he was driving and then fleeing into a neighborhood, where he was subsequently found hiding under a chicken coop in a resident’s back yard, the prosecutor said.

Ballistics testing subsequently determined that the .40-caliber weapon had been used to shoot the sheriff’s deputies, authorities said.

Jurors are also expected to hear from witnesses expected to testify that he confessed to all of the crimes, Lonseth said.

Murray’s attorney Kate Hardie reserved her opening statement.

Murray was initially charged with the attack on the Mercedes owner, with prosecutors subsequently filing additional charges against him, including attempted murder of the two deputies.

Authorities said the Compton resident is an ex-con with prior convictions including firearm possession by a felon or addict, burglary and criminal threats.

Apolinar was praised for helping her wounded partner despite her own injuries, with then-District Attorney Jackie Lacey calling her actions “heroic.” The deputy was subsequently honored with the 2021 American Legion, Department of California’s Law Enforcement Officer of the Year for Valor award.

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