The man suspected of shooting two deputies outside a Compton, California, transit station pleaded not guilty to two attempted murder charges at an arraignment Wednesday, his attorney and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office said.
Deonte Murray, 36, of Compton was already in custody in a separate case when police identified him as the suspect in the deputies’ shooting. He was arrested earlier this month and charged with shooting a man during a carjacking, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said.
The September 12 ambush on the two deputies, who were sitting in their car outside the Martin Luther King Jr. Transit Center, set off a massive manhunt, as the wounded law enforcement officers underwent surgery and recovered in a hospital.
Surveillance video shows a gunman walking up to the passenger door of their squad car, opening fire and running away.
“They became victims of a violent crime for one reason: They were doing their job, and they were wearing a badge,” Lacey said.
A judge set Murray’s bail at $6.155 million, and he is expected back in court November 17. If convicted, Murray faces a maximum sentence of life in state prison.
His attorney, Jack Keenan, had no comment on Wednesday’s attempted murder charges but said his client is concerned about his safety. Murray says he’s being denied food, and deputies are threatening him, the lawyer said.
“He’s being harassed night and day,” Keenan said. “It’s like you’re being housed by the victim’s family.”
A motion to have Murray moved to an alternate location was denied.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said “deputies always treat everyone in our care and custody with the same professionalism, regardless of their charges.”
“Mr. Murray has been in our custody for several weeks, but he was just identified as the suspect in the shooting this morning, therefore it is odd these allegations of mistreatment only surfaced after that public identification,” Assistant Sheriff Bruce Chase said in a statement to CNN.
A carjacking and a ‘ghost gun’
The carjacking happened September 1, when Murray allegedly shot the owner of a Mercedes-Benz in the leg with a high-powered rifle before stealing the car, Lacey’s office said in a statement.
Police identified Murray as the carjacking suspect and arrested him September 15, Lacey’s office said. While deputies pursued him, Murray allegedly chucked a firearm from his car, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Capt. Kent Wegener said. The weapon was collected as evidence and forensic analysis later determined it was the same gun used to shoot the deputies, the captain said.
The firearm is a so-called ghost gun, Wegener said. The term is generally used for guns assembled from parts, making them extremely difficult to trace.
Murray was charged two days later with carjacking, second-degree robbery and assault with a semiautomatic firearm. Prosecutors later added charges of attempted murder, possession of a firearm by a felon, association with a criminal street gang, discharging a rifle inflicting great bodily injury and personal use of a rifle, all in connection to the carjacking.
Deputies out of the hospital
After the gun and other evidence linked Murray to the attack on the deputies, prosecutors Wednesday added two counts each of willful, deliberate and premeditated attempted murder of a peace officer and possession of a firearm by a felon, ending the two-and-a-half week manhunt.
“We have a suspect in custody, and justice will be served,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced.
The deputies, who were sworn in about 15 months ago, were released from the hospital last week.
“They both have a long road to recovery and #LASD appreciates your continued prayers and all the support,” the department tweeted.
One of the deputies, a 31-year-old woman, was hailed as a hero after she ushered her 24-year-old partner to safety and applied a tourniquet to his bleeding arm. Both were shot several times and are bloodied in surveillance footage of the incident.