Two Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies were in a critical condition after being shot in an ambush outside a suburban metro station on Saturday night.

A security video showed a man walking up to the patrol car as if he was going to pass it, before pulling out a gun and firing shots through the passenger window.

Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department said the shootings were “without warning or provocation.”

Both victims, who suffered multiple gunshot wounds, were rookie officers. They graduated from the police academy only 14 months ago.

One was a 24-year old man, the other a 31-year-old mother of a six-year old boy.

“That was a cowardly act. The two deputies were doing their job, minding their own business and watching out for the safety of the people on the train,” said Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

“These are real people, doing a tough job, It shows the dangers of the job in the blink of an eye.”

He described the shooter, who fled the scene on foot, as a dark-skinned male.

The shootings in Compton, which lies south of the centre of Los Angeles, took place against a backdrop of mounting tension in the area , with Sheriff Villaneuva’s department facing criticism during recent protests.

With the officers fighting for their lives after undergoing emergency surgery, demonstrators gathered outside the hospital.

Donald Trump, who retweeted the video footage of the incident, described the shooter as an “animal”, who needed to be “hit hard”.

Aja Brown, the Democrat mayor of Compton, said she was devastated by the attack. "Both deputies and their families will remain in our prayers.”

Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union Los Angeles Democrat mayor, Eric Garcetti added: “Of course there’s an important conversation going on about policing in this country, but these are folks who put their lives on the line for us, and we will find justice for them.”

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