“While he was sitting there, couple of individuals ran up on his car, shot into his car and struck him with gunfire,” Lt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said during a news conference early Thursday.
The people who opened fire drove away after the gunshots, Deputy Guillermina Saldana, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, said in a telephone interview. “They shot into the vehicle and they fled,” she said.
Authorities from the sheriff’s department, which is leading the investigation, searched for suspects Thursday. Three people were in custody for the shooting, including one juvenile, police said.
The shooting occurred shortly after 11 p.m. on Wednesday night.
Saldana said Thursday morning that initial indications suggested Galvez “was targeted.” Later in the day, the police pivoted and said it now appeared the shooting was a robbery gone wrong and that the people who opened fire likely did not know Galvez — who was not in uniform — was an officer.
“There was nothing indicating that he was a police officer when he was shot,” Corina said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I don’t think he even really saw these guys coming up on him.”
The people in custody told police they were intending to rob Galvez, Corina said.
Galvez, a 29-year-old former Marine, was an officer with the police department in Downey, a city about 13 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles.
“It is with great sadness that I report one of Downey’s finest was shot and killed,” Carl D. Charles, the Downey police chief, said at a news conference. “Ricky, a five-year police officer with the Downey Police Department, was a tremendous young man.”
“We are incredibly sorrowed at the loss of Officer Galvez and our thoughts and prayers are with all who knew and loved him,” Downey Mayor Luis H. Marquez said in a statement.
After the gunshots rang out, another Downey officer chased the suspects, who headed north into the nearby city of Montebello and, at some point, got out of their car and ran away on foot, Saldana said. Officers from Downey, Montebello and the sheriff’s department all chased them and found at least one person, she said.
“I am shocked and saddened by the news that Downey Police Officer Ricardo Galvez was shot and killed last night,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D), whose district includes Downey, said in a statement. “I hope that those who committed this chilling crime will quickly be brought to justice.
So far this year, 33 police officers have been shot and killed in the line of duty by suspects, reports the Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit that tracks all line-of-duty deaths. In total, 101 officers have died this year from gunfire, traffic accidents and other causes, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
The number of officers killed by gunfire has fallen from last year. But amid protests against how police use deadly force have continued across the country since last year, officers have described feeling more anxiety as well as a feeling of increased danger.
Leading law enforcement officials have publicly and privately said they think the era of increased scrutiny is curtailing police actions, with FBI Director James Comey saying he thinks the rise in violent crime in major cities is tied to what he called this “chill wind blowing through law enforcement.”
However, this suggestion has been disputed by civil rights groups, activists and policing groups. Earlier this week, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said there is “no data” to support this idea that police are not acting as aggressively in policing communities.
This post has been updated multiple times. First published: 10:38 a.m.