Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy patrolling alone in his car in South Gate was fatally shot Thursday morning by a man on a bicycle.
Michael Hoenig, 32, of Huntington Beach, was wearing a bulletproof vest but was struck several times in the upper body in the 1:15 a.m. attack, including once in the neck. He died shortly after arriving at St. Francis Medical Center.
Investigators arrested Enrique Parra Duenas, 25, near the crime scene about 45 minutes after the shooting. Duenas, who will be charged with murder, was hiding in a crawl space between a concrete wall and a house, and was bitten by a police dog during his arrest, Sheriff’s Department officials said.
Investigators said Duenas told them he had thrown away his weapon before hiding, and they found a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol in rosebushes a few houses away.
Hoenig is survived by his parents, two brothers and a sister, officials said.
Officials believe the shooting occurred after Hoenig pulled over the bicyclist, whom he and witnesses had observed flailing his arms and acting erratically. The deputy had been on traffic patrol in nearby Lynwood, then followed the suspect a few blocks into South Gate. He stopped Duenas in front of a driveway on Seminole Avenue.
Before Hoenig could react, investigators said, Duenas fired a shot through the window of the rear passenger door. Then he walked behind the patrol car and fired at least six more shots, fatally striking Hoenig in the neck above his bulletproof vest. The deputy, who was struck by four bullets, was found outside the patrol car, his gun on the ground next to him. Sheriff Sherman Block said Hoenig never returned fire and was unable to radio for help.
“It’s literally an assassination,” Block said. Sheriff’s officials described Hoenig as outgoing and diligent, a 10-year law enforcement veteran who had worked as a county marshal for seven years before the marshals’ unit merged with the Sheriff’s Department three years ago.
A friend, Deputy Gerhaldt Groenow, said he was a reliable co-worker and a consummate professional. “If you needed something, he was there,” Groenow said.
Condolences began coming in to the Lynwood sheriff’s station late Thursday. Deputies wore black bands over their badges. One officer brought in a bouquet of flowers.
Two carloads of deputies visited the crime scene Thursday morning and talked quietly in small groups. Hoenig enjoyed camping and the outdoors, and often kept gear in his car in case he felt like escaping to the wilderness on short notice. “He was the kind of guy who liked to be prepared,” Groenow said. But he appeared to have been blindsided in the attack. “He never had a chance,” said one witness to the shooting, who asked not to be identified.
Sheriff’s officials said the deputy apparently was struck by the first shot and was unable to get out of his car to return fire. Duenas, they said, then left his bicycle on the sidewalk, walked to the back of the car, and fired several more shots as Hoenig was trying to get out of the driver’s seat. Three sheriff’s deputies and a South Gate Police Department sergeant rushed to the scene and administered CPR until paramedics arrived, but they were unable to save Hoenig. A swarm of deputies from several surrounding stations, as well as Los Angeles police officers, flooded the neighborhood and conducted a door-to-door search.
Minutes after the attack, a 35-year-old woman who had been awakened by the sound of gunfire heard a noise outside her bedroom window, about two blocks from the crime scene. She said she thought it was a large dog until she saw a human shadow. The man, she said, raised the door of the family’s two-car garage and ducked inside for a few minutes, apparently to hide. Then he came out and circled around to the brick patio behind the house, where he found a six-foot ladder, which he propped against a concrete wall. He climbed over the wall and dropped out of sight, said the woman, who asked that she not be identified because she feared retaliation.
Authorities said police dogs found Duenas cowering in a cramped, covered space on the other side of the wall, in an area littered with cans and old pipes. The woman in the house said her family moved in only six months ago. “We thought it was a nice neighborhood,” she said. “We’re all disappointed.” She said she stayed home from work and kept her children home from school Thursday because she felt “paranoid.” Sheriff’s deputies were on edge after the attack, the second fatal shooting of a deputy this year. The first was the murder of Deputy Shayne York, who was off duty when he was killed during the robbery of a Buena Park beauty parlor in August.
Block noted that the Hoenig shooting bore an eerie similarity to the 1995 shooting of Deputy Stephen Blair, who also died after he was shot in the neck above his bulletproof vest. Of the 10 other deputies who have been fired on this year, five have been wounded, the department said. “It’s something you don’t believe will happen, but you know it could,” Groenow said.
The slain deputy is survived by his parents, Robert and Mary, and three siblings, David, Georgia and Steven. Sheriff’s officials said a viewing would be held Nov. 4 at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Covina and that Hoenig’s funeral would be at 10 a.m. the next day at Calvary Chapel Golden Springs in Diamond Bar.
Robert Hoenig said that although his son liked his job, he would have preferred a career as a firefighter. His parents found unmailed applications to several fire departments on his desk. An avid outdoorsman, he had visited Mt. Rushmore earlier this year with his girlfriend, whom he had met through a local community service organization. Hoenig was considering leaving Southern California for a home closer to the wilderness, his father said. And, Robert Hoenig said, Michael had another reason for wanting to change jobs–he had had premonitions of his death while working in law enforcement. He said Michael had repeatedly tried to transfer from the Century Station in Lynwood, one of the most dangerous jurisdictions in the department.
“He had said many times he wouldn’t live long in law enforcement,” Robert Hoenig said. “Michael enjoyed what he did. But he was trying to get out of it.”
Michael L. Hoening attended Rio Hondo Police Academy, he was an LA County Marshall. Hoenig’s academy class, Class 85 started July 6, 1987, and graduated October 26, 1987.