Protesters have allegedly blocked the entrance to an emergency room at a Los Angeles hospital where two police officers are being treated for gunshot wounds after an “ambush”, the sheriff’s office has claimed.
Two deputies suffered multiple gunshot wounds in what appears to have been an unprovoked, close-range attack through the passenger window of their patrol car in Compton on Saturday night.
The shooting has sparked a manhunt for the culprit, a furious reaction from many across the nation, including Donald Trump, and has seen a small group of protesters gather outside the hospital.
“To the protesters blocking the entrance & exit of the HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM yelling ‘We hope they die’ referring to 2 LA Sheriff's ambushed today in #Compton: DO NOT BLOCK EMERGENCY ENTRIES & EXITS TO THE HOSPITAL,” tweeted LA County Sheriff’s department.
“People's lives are at stake when ambulances can't get through.”
Footage posted to social media showed a handful of protesters arrive at the hospital only to be met with a heavy police presence and escorted away from the building.
The footage taken by a man identifying himself as Kevin Wharton Price of the Africa Town Coalition sees him refer to the injured deputies as "two of America's most notorious gang members", while another protester can be heard shouting “we hope they die”.
The sheriff’s department said shortly afterwards that it had issued a “dispersal order for the unlawful assembly of a group of protesters blocking the hospital emergency entrance and exits”.
They arrested a man who allegedly “refused to comply and cooperate” and a member of the press who police claimed “interfered with" their arrest of the protestor.
“During his arrest, a struggle ensued at which time a female adult ran towards the deputies, ignored repeated commands to stay back as they struggled with the male and interfered with the arrest,” the sheriff’s department tweeted.
“The female adult, who was later identified as a member of the press, did not identify herself as press and later admitted she did not have proper press credentials on her person.”
The 31-year-old female deputy and 24-year-old male deputy who were shot both underwent surgery on Saturday evening, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a late-night news conference. Both graduated from the academy 14 months ago, he said.
The deputies were shot while sitting in their patrol car at a metro station and were able to radio for help, the sheriff said. Mr Villanueva, whose department has come under fire during recent protests over police brutality against black people, expressed frustration over anti-police sentiment as he urged people to pray for the officers.
"That was a cowardly act," he said. "The two deputies were doing their job, minding their own business, watching out for the safety of the people on the train."
"Seeing somebody just walk up and start shooting on them. It pisses me off. It dismays me at the same time. There's no pretty way to say it," he added.
Captain Kent Wegener said officers were blanketing the area in search of the suspect seen opening fire with a pistol, but said police had only "a very, very generic description".
Mr Trump sought to link protesters and the culprit as he shared police footage of the shooting, tweeting: “Animals that must be hit hard!”