L.A. mayor's dog helped stop man who shouted 'Karen!' during break-in, sources say

Los Angeles, CA, Monday, April 22, 2024 - LA Mayor Karen Bass and City Administrative Officer Matt Szabo unveil the 2024-25 fiscal budget at City Hall. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
L.A Mayor Karen Bass unveils the 2024-25 fiscal budget at City Hall. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The man who broke into the home of Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass shouted her first name repeatedly during the early morning security breach last month, leaving a trail of blood after smashing a glass door at the Windsor Park mansion before getting spooked by the mayor's German shepherd, according to multiple sources familiar with the ongoing investigation.

Prosecutors allege that during the April 21 break-in, Ephraim Hunter, 29, screamed "Karen!" several times as he attempted to access several bedrooms in Bass' home around 6:40 a.m., said three law enforcement sources who requested anonymity in order to discuss a pending case.

It was unclear if Hunter began screaming the mayor's name before or after police detained him. A spokesman for Bass declined to comment.

In court last month, L.A. County Deputy Dist. Atty. Jonathan Chung said Hunter told people inside the mayor's home he “didn’t know why he was there," but later called out a victim's name during the incident. He would not identify the victim.

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón told reporters last month that Hunter was "targeting" Bass. Hunter, the D.A. said, took actions that made it clear "that he knew that this was ... the mayor’s home, and that he was looking for her." But Gascón did not offer specifics, and a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office declined to offer additional comments on the case.

Read more: LAPD had no security at mayor's house when intruder broke in; suspect targeted Bass, D.A. says

A high-level Los Angeles police official, however, said investigators were confused by Gascón's public remarks. Nothing in the LAPD's investigation suggested Hunter — a Massachusetts native who had moved to L.A. only in the last few years to live with his brother — had planned or plotted an attack against Bass.

"I don't know why Gascón said what he said, he must be privy to something our investigators are not privy to," said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case.

In an interview with The Times last month, Hunter's mother, Josephine Duah, said her son had been struggling with drug addiction and was hallucinating at the time of the incident. Duah said Hunter called her from jail the day after his arrest and claimed he got off a bus in Windsor Park with no idea where he was. He told his mother he was fleeing from someone “trying to shoot him."

Hunter provided a similar version of events to radio station KNX in a jailhouse interview published Monday. The 29-year-old said he had been on a multiday drug binge and repeated the claim that he had no idea where he was. Hunter told KNX someone he believed to be Bass' son-in-law screamed at him to "get the f— out" when he reached the second floor of the home. He also said he believed he was yelling out "Aaron," his brother's name, not "Karen."

Public records confirm Hunter's brother's first name is Aaron. He has not responded to a note left by a Times reporter at his Mid-City apartment.

Another law enforcement source, who also requested anonymity to discuss an active investigation, said responding officers believed Hunter was under the influence of methamphetamine.

Hunter's attorney, Howard Stern, said the district attorney's office "has this case entirely wrong" but declined to answer specific questions for this article.

Hunter is due back in court June 3. He served seven years in prison in Massachusetts after he was convicted of an assault that left a man unconscious in a suburb outside Boston in 2015.

The break-in has prompted scrutiny of security protocols at the mayor's residence. Interim Los Angeles Police Chief Dominic Choi has said there were no officers on the Getty House property at the time of the break-in. The gap in coverage occurred during a shift change and was apparently a normal part of the LAPD's scheduled security plan for Bass, Choi said.

Read more: An intruder made it to the second floor of L.A. Mayor Bass' home: Here's what we know

Though the chief said the gap has since been "remedied," a continued review of the incident now suggests other failures. Two law enforcement sources said nobody was monitoring surveillance cameras while Hunter approached the property. With proper monitoring, Bass or police could have been alerted to Hunter's presence before he smashed through the door, according to the sources, who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the investigation.

Choi has declined to answer additional questions about security issues. Capt. Kelly Muniz, an LAPD spokeswoman, said the initial call for help came in at 6:42 a.m. but declined to say exactly when police arrived.

In the time between the break-in and the arrival of LAPD officers, Bass got help from her dog, a rescued German shepherd named Stax, according to a law enforcement official and a person with knowledge of the investigation, both of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly about it.

During the gap in police coverage, Stax managed to interrupt and delay Hunter's alleged attempts to break into bedrooms on the second floor of the home, the officials said.

The dog did not bite Hunter, who was then taken into custody without incident.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.