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

Los Angeles, CA, Monday, April 15, 2024 - LA Mayor Karen Bass delivers her second State of the City Address at City Hall. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
Mayor Karen Bass delivers her second State of the City Address at City Hall earlier this month. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

For the record:
4:17 p.m. April 22, 2024: An earlier version of this article misspelled the last name of Josephine Duah as Duaa.

The man suspected of smashing through a window and breaking into the home of Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass on Sunday morning was previously charged with kidnapping and attempted murder in Massachusetts, court records show.

Ephraim Hunter, 29, allegedly broke into the Getty House in Windsor Square around 6:40 a.m. while Bass and several of her relatives were home , according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Hunter was arrested without incident, according to police, who said no one was hurt and nothing was stolen.

The 29-year-old L.A. resident was booked on suspicion of burglary Sunday afternoon, police said. A case has yet to be presented to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office and the matter is being investigated by the LAPD's elite Robbery-Homicide Division.

In a phone interview Monday, a woman who identified herself as Hunter's mother said he had been struggling with drug addiction and possibly suffering from hallucinations when he allegedly broke into the mayor's residence.

Josephine Duah said Hunter called her from jail Monday morning and claimed he was fleeing from someone "trying to shoot him" and had no idea whose house he'd entered."He didn’t know that at all," Duah said. "He just was running... he thought somebody was chasing him and he hopped some fences and he went in the house… I’m wondering if mentally he was relieved if he saw police.”

Duah said her son told her he got off a bus near Getty House because he feared someone was coming after him with a shotgun.

Exterior view of the Getty House in Los Angeles.
Exterior view of the Getty House in Los Angeles. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Investigators have not discussed a motive for the break-in. Two law enforcement sources not authorized to discuss the open case with the media said Hunter made it to the second floor of the home, causing Bass to hide in a safe area designed to protect against intruders, akin to a panic room.

Detectives plan to present charges of first-degree burglary to prosecutors, and a criminal case should be filed Tuesday, according to one of the sources. It was unclear whether Hunter had retained an attorney or whether one had been assigned to him.

Read more: Suspect arrested in break-in at home of L.A. Mayor Karen Bass

A review of court records shows Hunter is originally from Massachusetts, where he'd previously been convicted of a violent crime.

In 2015, prosecutors in Norfolk County, Mass., alleged Hunter was one of four people who used a hammer and a snow brush to beat a man bloody inside a van in Millis, Mass., about 30 miles outside Boston, according to a news release. The victim in that case was left unconscious and was taken by helicopter to a Boston hospital.

Hunter and two other men dragged the victim into a van, where officers found the man "unconscious, in the rear of the car with no pants on, blood on his left leg and blood on his head," according to a Millis Police Department report.

Hunter was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and served seven years in state prison, records show.

Duah said her son claimed he was innocent of that assault and refused a plea deal. She said that although Hunter was present for the attack, he did not take part in it.

After he was released from state prison in Massachusetts, Duah said, she urged Hunter to start over somewhere else. His brother lived in Los Angeles, so he headed west, she said. Hunter's brother did not immediately respond to a note left seeking comment at their Mid-City apartment.

Duah said her son had a job and was doing well, though she declined to offer specifics. In the last few weeks, however, she said he'd grown erratic. She said he was "smoking" a drug, though she didn't know what. He was supposed to enter a treatment clinic on Monday but never made it, she said.

"All of a sudden he starts calling me telling me someone is after him. I go, what are you talking about? … He needs some help, somebody please help him, he's going to lose his mind," Duah said, her voice cracking with emotion.

Duah described her son as a "very kind and loving person" whose life had become unwound by drug use and his time in prison. She repeatedly insisted her son had no idea he had entered the mayor's house.

“He doesn’t know anything out there. … He was going in there because he was scared," she said.

Investigators believe Hunter was intoxicated at the time of the incident, according to a law enforcement source not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing case.

Appearing at a news conference Monday on her proposed city budget, Bass was asked repeatedly for her message on public safety, since she now has experienced two home break-ins over a three-year span.

"Let me just say first of all, I am fine. My family is fine. And we are going to do everything we can to keep Angelenos safe," the mayor said. "I believe our budget makes significant contributions and investments toward keeping Angelenos safe."

Bass thanked the LAPD and noted the investigation remains ongoing. She declined to comment further.

When a Times reporter asked whether she thought the break-in suspect was targeting her specifically, Bass said: "I'm not going to answer that."

On Sunday, her office released a short description of what occurred.

“This morning at about 6:40 a.m., an intruder broke into Getty House through a window. Mayor Bass and her family were not injured and are safe," Zach Seidl, deputy mayor of communications, said in a statement.

One LAPD source, not authorized to speak publicly about the case, said a 24-hour security operation is now in place at Getty House, with police maintaining a visible presence in the area.

Times staff writer Dakota Smith contributed reporting.

Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.