A Santa Monica man who allegedly shot an undercover Santa Monica police officer in the Pico Neighborhood last week has been charged with attempted murder, a Los Angeles County Superior Court spokeswoman said.
German Michael Espinola, 20, allegedly opened fire on an unmarked police car early Thursday, February 2nd, striking Santa Monica police officer Walter Ramirez, 25, in the right wrist, Santa Monica police said.
Ramirez, a four-year veteran of the Santa Monica Police Department, was treated at the UCLA Medical Center and released later the same day.
A second Santa Monica police officer who was a passenger in the unmarked vehicle was not injured in the shooting, police said. Santa Monica Police Chief James Butts called the shooting “unlawful and barbaric.”
Police arrested Espinola and his alleged accomplice, Richard De La Cruz, 32, of Santa Monica, shortly after the shooting incident February 2nd, Santa Monica police Lt. Frank Fabrega said.
Espinola appeared at the county Superior Court Airport Courthouse Monday, February 6th.
The county district attorney charged Espinola with two counts each of attempted murder and assault with a firearm, and one count each of shooting at an occupied vehicle and unlawful firearm activity, a Superior Court spokeswoman said.
Espinola is currently being held on $2.4 million bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday, February 14th.
Santa Monica police booked De La Cruz for attempted murder of a police officer and a felony probation violation, Fabrega said.
The county district attorney has not filed charges against De La Cruz, the Superior Court spokeswoman said.
Butts said the shooting incident began at about 5 a.m. when a uniformed police officer on patrol saw two men in a blue van acting suspiciously in a grocery store parking lot in the 1600 block of Cloverfield Boulevard in Santa Monica.
The officer requested that Ramirez and his partner, who were working in an undercover unit in the area on a robbery suppression detail, obtain a license plate number of the van, police said.
The undercover officers followed the van but lost sight of it in the area of Pico Boulevard and 18th Street, Butts said.
While driving southbound on 17th Street, the officers located the van in a driveway in the 1900 block of 17th Street, near Santa Monica College.
As the officers moved forward in the unmarked car, Ramirez’s partner saw one of the suspects appear from the passenger side of the van allegedly holding a gun, police said.
Butts said the officer yelled “gun, gun” as the suspect, believed to be Espinola, allegedly fired at the undercover officers multiple times while they tried to drive away.
One bullet struck the front windshield of the police car and another struck the right rear passenger window of the police car and hit Ramirez in the wrist, police said.
The police officers moved to a position of safety to request assistance and did not return fire, Butts said.
Police set up a four-block perimeter of the area and a SWAT team was called to help search for the suspects.
The SWAT team located the two suspects in an apartment building in the 1900 block of 17th Street and negotiated their surrender at about 6:15 a.m., Butts said.
The police chief said it was the first time shots had been fired at a Santa Monica police officer in the area since an officer was shot at, but not hit, 18 months ago near 19th Street and Michigan Avenue.