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

Los Angeles, CA, Monday, April 22, 2024 - LA Mayor Karen Bass unveils 2024-25 fiscal budget at City Hall. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, pictured Monday unveiling her budget for the coming fiscal year. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The man who broke into Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass' home Sunday was specifically "targeting" her when he forced his way in and reached the second floor, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón said Tuesday.

Prosecutors provided disturbing new details about the incident after announcing the filing of burglary and vandalism charges — both felonies — against Ephraim Hunter, 29, of Los Angeles. Hunter pleaded not guilty to both counts.

Appearing at a news conference, Gascón said Hunter broke into Getty House, the mayor’s residence in L.A.'s Windsor Square neighborhood, around 6:40 a.m. He smashed a glass door, leaving a trail of blood as he went inside, Gascón said.

Gascón would not explain why investigators believe Bass was targeted, saying it is an ongoing inquiry. He also declined to say whether Hunter said anything once he was inside the residence, which was occupied at the moment by Bass, her daughter, her son-in-law and her newborn grandchild.

Zach Seidl, a spokesperson for Bass, said the mayor does not know the suspect. He declined further comment.

In court, one of Gascón's prosecutors described a bloody and chaotic scene inside the mayor's residence. Deputy Dist. Atty. Jonathan Chung said Hunter used his body to smash through the glass door, causing up to $10,000 in damage, before attempting to access several bedrooms, leaving blood on the doorknobs.

Although Hunter initially told people on the scene he “didn’t know why he was there,” he at one point called out someone's name, Chung said, describing the unnamed person as a victim in the case.

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

"There were actions while he was inside the property that are consistent with the fact that he knew that this was ... the mayor's home, and that he was looking for her," Gascón said.

Hunter entered his plea late Tuesday afternoon. Appearing in a blue county jail shirt and red basketball shorts, he could be heard in the courtroom telling his attorney he “had a delusion” and thought he was being chased before the incident.

Carlos Bido, Hunter’s public defender, asked for his client to be released pending a preliminary hearing. Bido confirmed his client was under the influence of a controlled substance at the time of the incident, though he did not specify which drug. Bido said Hunter is "gainfully employed" by a nonprofit organization, though he did not name the group.

Bido said Hunter “was not aware of his whereabouts.”

Superior Court Judge Kimberley Baker Guillemet ordered Hunter held in lieu of $100,000 bail. He is due back in court on May 6.

Prosecutors revealed the new details of the case a few hours after interim Police Chief Dominic Choi reported that there were no security officers on the Getty House property at the time of the break-in.

Choi, fielding questions from reporters, said the break-in took place during a shift change, when "the officers that are there overnight leave to head back to their station and the oncoming shift comes on."

"There was a short gap there, and that's when that incident occurred," he said. "That gap has been remedied. We've created an overlap so it doesn't happen again."

Choi said the intruder jumped over a fence and broke in through the back of the residence. Once inside, he climbed the stairs to the second floor where the bedrooms are located, police said.

At one point, Bass was forced to hide in a safe area designed to protect against intruders, according to two law enforcement sources who were not authorized to discuss the case with the media.

Asked whether the city's security measures fell short Sunday, Choi said he doesn't think so.

"I don't know if one officer there could have physically stopped him ... or seen him. The Getty House, as you know, is a very large property," he said.

Choi said that in the past, a mix of armed and unarmed security has been assigned to patrol Getty House. The incident took place after the end of a shift handled by unarmed security, he said.

"To my understanding, this happened so quickly that even if somebody had been there, he probably still would have been able to access inside the residence," he said.

Read more: Suspect in break-in at Mayor Bass' home previously convicted of assault

Hunter, who lives in Los Angeles, was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in Massachusetts in 2015, serving several years in state prison, records show.

Choi did not answer reporters' questions about the exact length of the security gap, calling it "very small." He said the mayor's security detail, which is made up of sworn LAPD officers, was "en route to the residence" when the incident occurred. The detail was scheduled to arrive at 7 a.m. on Sunday, Choi said.

Earlier in the day, Choi said he did not know whether the suspect was familiar with the residence. "Nothing in this person's history suggests that this was a targeted or purposeful location," he said.

On Monday, Bass declined to say whether she had been specifically targeted during the incident.

Seidl, her spokesperson, had no comment on either Choi's or Gascón's remarks. Bass has provided few details on the break-in so far, expressing gratitude to the LAPD and saying that she and her family are fine.

Spokeswomen for Gascón and the LAPD did not respond to requests for comment on the differing narratives between the police chief and district attorney.

In a phone interview Monday, a woman who identified herself as Hunter’s mother said he had been struggling with drug addiction and may have been suffering from hallucinations at the time of the incident. The woman, Josephine Duah, said her son called her from jail Monday and claimed he had no idea he'd broken into the mayor's residence.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.