Local law enforcement on alert after potential street gang threat

- Law enforcement officers across the Southland were on high alert Wednesday after a safety bulletin issued by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to its deputies and other area agencies revealed a gang-related threat against them.

Sheriff's Homicide Bureau detectives learned of the threat two weeks ago while investigating the fatal shooting of a stolen-vehicle suspect by South Gate police officers at the end of a vehicle chase, according to the sheriff's department.

"During the course of an officer-involved shooting investigation, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Homicide Bureau was made aware of information regarding a potential threat by criminal street gangs against Southern California on-duty law enforcement officers,'' according to a sheriff's department statement.

"This threat was not specific as to the law enforcement agency or agencies that might be targeted, or as to the individual or individuals who may be involved.''

The officer-involved shooting occurred on May 15 in the area of Cherry Avenue and Artesia Boulevard in Long Beach after Omar Benitez, 22, of Compton led police on a chase in a van that had been reported stolen.

"The intention of the officer safety bulletin issued was to advise local agencies and officers of the existence of the threat,'' according to the sheriff's department. "Law enforcement personnel should always exercise
diligence and situational awareness.

"The purpose of this bulletin is to reinforce the need for law enforcement officers to be continuously alert and active in assessing their surroundings. The information upon which this bulletin is based, as well as any new information obtained, will continue to be evaluated and investigated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.''

The Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents the LAPD rand-and-file, issued a statement Tuesday saying the threat is an example of why the union has pushed against early release programs and for increased patrols.

"Los Angeles police officers risk their lives every day patrolling our neighborhoods,'' according to the statement. "Recently, criminals have become more emboldened and brazen in assaulting and murdering officers for just wearing a uniform.

"It's disgusting and that is why we've fought against the early release of violent criminals and have advocated for increased neighborhood police patrols in Los Angeles. We must send a clear message that any attacks on law enforcement are, in fact, attacks on our communities as well.''

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