A police officer who was shot by a domestic violence suspect Monday in Sylmar showed slight improvement Tuesday, as his condition was upgraded to stable but doctors said he still faces a lengthy recovery.
LAPD officer Steven Jenkins was being heavily sedated to keep his movements at a minimum, said Police Chief Charlie Beck, who was among the first in line at a blood drive for Jenkins held at LAPD's Central Station.
"We're cautiously optimistic about his recovery," said Beck, calling Jenkins an "incredible fighter."
His wife, Beth Jenkins -- also an LAPD officer -- remained at his side in Providence Holy Cross Medical Center and thanked the public for their support through a hospital spokeswoman.
Jenkins, a K-9 officer and 22-year veteran of the force, was shot in the jaw and shoulder early Monday morning as he and other officers approached the home of a domestic violence suspect. The suspect, Sergio O. Salazar, holed up inside 13652 1/2 Dronfield Avenue in Sylmar all day, exchanging gunfire with officers several times.
SWAT officers later deployed a nearly $1 million device called a BatCat, a high-tech crane that tore apart the sides of Salazar's home so they could look for him without having to enter the structure and put themselves at risk.
Salazar was later found dead in an upstairs room, a rifle at his side.
It was unclear if he shot himself or was wounded in an exchange of gunfire just before 10:30 a.m. Monday.
The Los Angeles County Coroner's office would likely examine the body today according to a spokesman.
Dozens of volunteers continued to donate blood Tuesday to help support Jenkins. By the end of the day Tuesday, more than 100 pints had been collected at Providence Holy Cross and another blood drive would be set up for Thursday, said Patricia Aidem, spokeswoman for the hospital. An additional 60 pints were collected during the drive at Central Station.
Jenkins still has to undergo multiple surgeries, including jaw reconstruction, Beck said.
Investigators combed through the wreckage of Salazar's Dronfield Avenue home Tuesday, sifting for clues as to what motivated him to exchange gunfire with officers.
Massive chunks of wall had been been removed from the first and second floor of Salazar's two story house, where bedrooms, a mirror and dresser, sheets, and split pieces of lumber and fiber glass were left exposed.
No other officers were hurt, but shell casings remained on the ground as a result of the exchanges with police.
"They're investigating several crimes, such as attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and in addition to the criminal investigation, this is a detailed administrative investigation because it is an officer-involved shooting," said LAPD spokesman Lt. Andy Neiman.
Neiman said the investigation would likely continue today
"We have a shooting policy, and this is a use of force investigation," Neiman said. "Did the officers act within policy? Each individual round fired is analyzed."
Police said the investigation through Salazar's home could help explain why Salazar fired shots at officers.
"We collectively scratched our heads," said LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese, the San Fernando Valley's commanding officer.
"The man had a criminal history but it was relatively old. Hopefully we can learn more as we interview family members and neighbors."
Salazar has a previous conviction for carrying a loaded firearm in a public place in the Antelope Valley in 1993, according to media reports.
Albanese said police would attempt to explain why such extreme actions had been taken to nearby neighbors who had to be evacuated and promised that the police department would pay for any needed repairs.
"He was a calm man, a good person and I could never imagine something like this," Miguel Cervantes, who worked for Salazar, said in Spanish in media reports.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service