Fireman in Stable Condition After Highway Shooting

Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles County firefighter shot in the face over the weekend while driving near Palomar Mountain was in stable condition Monday at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in San Diego as sheriff’s deputies continued to look for suspects, authorities said.

Sheriff’s deputies investigating what they described as an attempted murder said Clayton Richard Howe, 31, was shot in the face while off duty at about 1:50 p.m. Sunday in Valley Center, near where South Grade Road meets California 76.

Howe and a companion were on their way to Palomar Mountain when they were tailgated by an unknown number of people in a white Suzuki Samurai, sheriff’s deputies said.

“Howe was apparently traveling too slow for the Suzuki driver,” said Sgt. Manny Castillo.


Someone in the Suzuki displayed a shotgun and gestures were made back and forth between the occupants of both cars, Castillo said. The Suzuki eventually passed Howe and sped away.

But when Howe reached the top of the grade, he saw the suspects pulled over on the shoulder of the road. Howe pulled in behind them, displayed his badge and ordered the suspects to drop their weapons, deputies said.

Then someone in the Suzuki fired a shotgun at Howe as he stood beside his own car. A passer-by stopped to help Howe as the suspects fled, sheriff’s deputies said.

Howe was taken to Palomar Hospital in Escondido, where he was treated for facial and eye injuries. Sheriff’s deputies said Sunday that Howe was expected to undergo further eye surgery.

Monterey Park Fire Chief James Page, a resident of Carlsbad, said: “The whole department is in a state of shock.” Page said Howe has been a training officer at the Monterey Park station for 18 months.

“He’s one of the most dedicated fire officers I’ve ever met,” Page said. “At least two people here have talked to him today, and those reports sounded fairly optimistic,” he said Monday.

Several suspects have been questioned and released. Homicide detectives are still investigating.