Police shoot man they say fired at them during investigation

Police exchanged gunfire with a man, wounding him, after he fled from officers who were investigating a reported shooting at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Central Long Beach on Monday, authorities said.

The situation began at around 2 p.m. when officers were called to the scene of a shooting near MLK Park, at 1940 Lemon Ave. The caller said people in the park were shooting at each other, but police couldn’t find any suspects.

When they searched the surrounding area, officers made contact with a man in the 1200 block of Leigh Court, across the street and just north of Long Beach City College’s Pacific Coast Campus, Sgt. Rudy Garcia said.

Police tape off an area of MLK Park. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Officers tried to speak with the man on the bicycle, who they believed to have been involved in the earlier shooting, but he took off, Garcia said.

Karen Tejeda said she was with two family members at Jenni Rivera Memorial Park just off Orange Avenue when she heard a police siren and officers yelling at someone to stop from under the Hill Street bridge. She said the man on a bicycle appeared to be trying to get away from them.

As she grabbed her niece and nephew and ducked for cover, Tejeda said, she saw officers chase the bicyclist into an alleyway where he fell off and kept running.

Police crowd Orange Avenue near Leigh Court where they were investigating an officer-involved shooting, Monday, March 30, 2020. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

“Something in me told me there was going to be gunshots,” Tejeda said of her quick actions.

While chasing the man, police say they ordered him to stop, but he refused to comply.

The man ran up to Tejeda’s brother, who was gardening outside his nearby house, but the brother pushed the man away, she said.

After the man made it a little further down the block, he shot at officers, who returned fire, she said. When officers fired back, they hit the man in the upper body, authorities said.

“It’s pretty unbelievable,” Tejeda said of the experience.

LBPD Sgt. Rudy Garcia talks to reporters on the corner of Orange Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway. An officer-involved shooting happened just north of that location on the afternoon of Monday, March 30, 2020. Photo by Stephanie Rivera.

Paramedics rushed the man to the hospital where he was in critical but stable condition Tuesday. Authorities identified him as Robert Welch, a 21-year-old from Long Beach. Police also said they found a firearm in the area.

No victims have come forward regarding the first shooting at MLK Park, Garcia said.

Anyone with information is asked to call Long Beach homicide detectives Michael Hubbard and Leticia Gamboa at 562-570-7244.

Police tape off an area at Martin Luther King Jr. Park after a nearby police shooting, Monday, March 30, 2020. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

An officer walks by a playground at Martin Luther King Jr. Park after a nearby police shooting, Monday, March 30, 2020. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Police officers at the scene of an officer-involved shooting on Orange Avenue on Monday, March 30, 2020. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Support our journalism.

Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.

Stephanie Rivera is the community engagement editor for the Long Beach Post. After graduating from CSULB with a degree in journalism, Stephanie worked for Patch Latino and City News Service before coming to the Long Beach Post in 2015.