VAN NUYS, Calif.–A gunman distraught over a friend’s death fired a rifle round into an LAPD helicopter, forcing it to make a perilous but injury-free landing at Van Nuys Airport as his relatives subdued him and held him for police, authorities said.
Danny Lopez, 18, was booked on suspicion of attempted murder on a police officer, said Los Angeles police Detective Gus Villanueva.
The A-Star American Eurocopter was hit by a round from a high-powered rifle just after 6 a.m. over Saticoy Street and Densmore Avenue, causing it to lose power, but the crew managed to land safely at nearby Van Nuys Airport, police said.
“I am not certain where the bullet hit. I do know it did not strike the cockpit area,” Villanueva said, adding there were two officers aboard the aircraft at the time.
No one in the helicopter was injured as it made an “auto-rotation” landing on the apron at a charter jet service, Clay Lacy Aviation, on the airport’s east side. An auto-rotation landing means the pilot was able to steer only by using air passing through powerless blades, as the aircraft descended.
Once the chopper landed, firefighters emptied it of fuel as a precaution. Tentative plans were to put it on a trailer and tow it to the Hooper Air Station, near downtown Los Angeles, for investigation and repair.
The helicopter was apparently one of several LAPD targets the man shot at early Easter Sunday. No one on the ground was hit.
In the tense minutes after the chopper was hit, members of the gunman’s family confronted him in the street and tackled him, enabling officers to arrest him–around 7:10 a.m.–without firing a shot, an LAPD captain said.
Police then spent more than seven hours in the neighborhood north of Victory Boulevard and west of the San Diego (405) Freeway searching for a rumored second gunman, Villanueva said. But no second suspect turned up, and the search ended just before 2:30 p.m., he said.
The sequence of events culminating in Lopez’s arrest began just before 6 a.m., when police received a call of “shots fired.” The chopper appeared over the site a short time later.
“Our morning watch units responded to that area, and they observed an individual that was actually shooting in the direction of the police,” Capt. John Egan told KTLA.
“One of the first responding supervisors, that was actually controlling the incident out there, said he saw the suspect shooting in the direction of the helicopter, and he saw smoke coming out of the helicopter,” he added.
The shooter was apparently distraught because of the recent death of a friend, and Egan credited members of his family for “trying to get him to calm down and to surrender.”
“Eventually, some of the family members were actually able to subdue him, and the officers were able to come in and take him into custody,” Egan said. “The best thing about this is that no shots were fired by the police and this individual is in custody and he is unharmed.”
Villanueva said no details were immediately available on the circumstances surrounding the friend’s death.
The diminutive suspect–he’s 5 feet 6 and 129 pounds–is being held without bail at the Valley Jail in Van Nuys, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Inmate Information Center.
The Los Angeles Police Department claims to run the world’s largest municipal law enforcement airborne operation.