Sunday, August 7, 2011

San Diego Police officer shot in head in unprovoked attack; 1 gunman slain


San Diego Police officers stand at the ready with their weapons outside of the home where a suspect was holed up.  He had allegedly shot a San Diego Police officer on 45th and University.
John Gastaldo
San Diego Police officers stand at the ready with their weapons outside of the home where a suspect was holed up. He had allegedly shot a San Diego Police officer on 45th and University. 

San Diego Police officers stand at the ready with their weapons outside of the home where a suspect was holed up.  He had allegedly shot a San Diego Police officer on 45th and University.
Law enforcement from all over the county stands near the suspected black Audi wanted in connection with the shooting of an SDPD officer at 45th and University in City Heights. At this scene at 48th and Polk, the suspect was holed up. — John Gastaldo
— The second San Diego Police officer in 10 months was shot in the line of duty Saturday evening, possibly by a suspect in a shooting earlier in the day in El Cajon.

Police have not identified the male officer, who they said was “very critically” wounded just after 5:30 p.m.
He was taken to Scripps Mercy Hospital in Hillcrest, while one suspect was confirmed dead.

The shooting took place when the officer pulled alongside a black Audi at 45th Street and University Avenue in City Heights. Someone in the Audi pulled out a shotgun and shot the officer in the head, according to emergency radio reports.

“As far as we know, it was totally unprovoked,” said Police Capt. Jim Collins. “He was not attempting to stop the suspect vehicle. He had no idea that was the suspect vehicle.”

About a half-hour after the shooting, police tracked the suspects’ vehicle to an apartment three blocks away, on 48th Street. One suspect was killed after exchanging fire with police, and police believed a second suspect to be holed up in an apartment Saturday night while a SWAT team maneuvered outside.

But, at about 10 p.m. police entered the apartment and some then left the scene. It was not clear whether they found a man inside.

According to chatter on police radio, they were planning to go house-to-house in the neighborhood, where many residents had been evacuated. But, over the next two hours, most police left the area and residents were allowed back into the apartments where the SWAT operation had taken place. University Avenue was reopened except for the block where the officer had been shot.

The fatal series of incidents appears to have started on the outskirts of El Cajon at about 5:20 p.m. when police responded to reports of a shooting at an In-N-Out restaurant near North Magnolia and Bradley avenues.

One man was reportedly hit by a bullet and police gave chase to a black Audi on Interstate 8 and south on state Route 15. Police stopped pursuit of the vehicle after its speeds topped 100 mph.

At 5:29 p.m., said Collins, San Diego police were alerted by the Sheriff’s Department to look for a black sedan wanted in connection with the In-N-Out shooting.

Three minutes later, “a female citizen got on the radio of one of our police officers and said an officer had been shot at 45th and University,” Collins said.

Collins said the officer, traveling alone, was stopped in the right lane of University headed east when the black vehicle pulled up next to him and a gun was fired from the passenger’s window.

It’s not clear how many people were in the black car at the time or who fired the gun.

With minutes, dozens of police cars from San Diego and surrounding jurisdictions filled University. Officers performed CPR and crowds gathered at all the street corners nearby to watch and tell police what they saw.

About a half-hour after the officer was shot, a San Diego police helicopter spotted a man getting into the black car with what appeared to be a shotgun. As police approached the vehicle, said Collins, “The suspect produced the shotgun and several officers fired at the suspect.”

He was pronounced dead at the scene. Police did not provide any information about him Saturday night, including whether he is considered the gunman in either of the earlier shootings.

At an apartment complex nearby, Cesar Zamora, 16, said that he was watching a movie on TV when the gunfire broke out about 6 p.m.

“The cops were shooting at the black Audi while he was still driving it,” he said. “I went out and bullets were flying. One chipped my (apartment) window on the second floor.”

Cesar said he saw police bullets hit the rear right side of the Audi. He said the driver backed up and hit a fence, then a red car and came to a stop. He did not see if anyone was wounded or get out of the car.

Since 1864, 28 San Diego County law enforcement personnel have been shot and killed in the line of duty. The most recent confirmed death was Oct. 28, when San Diego police Officer Christopher A. Wilson, 50, was killed in a shootout after being called to a Skyline apartment to help arrest a man during a probation check.

Three people have been charged in connection with his death, the District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday. In late July, Alex Charfauros, 27, Patrick Luangrath, 20, and Melissa Ortiz, 22, pleaded not guilty in San Diego Superior Court to felony charges including murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and other drug- and gun-related charges.

Mike Lee: (619) 293-2034; mike.lee@uniontrib.com

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