San Bernardino officer shot in gun battle is in critical condition

The San Bernardino police officer who was shot twice during an early morning gun battle remains in "very, very, very critical condition" condition after undergoing surgery, the department's chief said Friday.

The 31-year-old officer, a six-year department veteran, suffered at least two gunshots to the upper torso after a man he stopped on foot opened fire, Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said. The shooter, described as a male in his 30s, was killed by the officer's partner, who is just two months out of the academy, officials said.

That trainee officer was not hit in what police described as a "protracted gun battle." Given his level of experience, the officer's response was exceptional, Burguan said.

"For all intents and purposes, he did a pretty remarkable job," he said.

The shooting occurred about 2 a.m. after the officers approached a group of six people in the 1900 block of Garner Avenue and one person in the group opened fire “almost immediately," Burguan said. An AK-47 assault rifle with high-capacity magazines and a revolver were recovered at the scene.

It was unclear what prompted officers to stop and approach the group, but Burguan said it was a "self-initiated effort."

They "obviously appeared suspicious to them in some way, shape or form," Burguan said. "I don't know exactly, at this point, why they were making that contact."

Two women, ages 18 and 19, and two men, ages 30 and 24, were immediately detained for questioning. At a news conference later in the morning, Burguan said a fifth person who had run from the scene as the officers arrived had been tracked down and was also being questioned. The 22-year-old man's involvement in the incident was not immediately known.
Police did not release the identities of anyone in the group, saying it was too early in the investigation.

"All of them are being questioned," Burguan said. "We have not charged anyone with a crime yet."

Burguan said the group of six had consumed alcohol at a club before the incident, but it was unclear which residence they were headed to.

Many residents in the neighborhood on Friday would only give their first names for fear of retaliation, despite saying that the area had improved in recent years.

One woman, Tiffany, said she heard the shots ring out.

"It was six one time, and then six again," she said.

Several neighbors said that police regularly patrolled the neighborhood, but with an officer shot, they expected the police presence to ramp up. Friday's incident was the most violence the neighborhood had seen in a decade, they said.

One woman who declined to give her name said the shooting was "very unusual."

"I want to know why there were six people at 2 a.m. with heavy arms in this neighborhood," she said. "It's very unusual. I don't believe they live here."

"Nobody walks these streets with an AK-47," she added.

 Twitter: @katemather