S.D. Police Officer Tied to Rapes and Robberies : Crime: He is arrested after two men who answered a woman’s screams were shot. Police chief is stunned.
An off-duty San Diego police officer, arrested Thursday in the attempted rape of a woman and the attempted murder of her two male companions at the beach, is the prime suspect in a series of attempted robberies and sexual assaults along the coast from Solana Beach to La Jolla.
Calling the situation his department’s “worst nightmare come true,” Police Chief Bob Burgreen announced that Henry Hubbard Jr., 29, a patrolman for 4 1/2 years, is accused of shooting the two men in the chest after they attempted to rescue the woman at Torrey Pines State Beach. Hubbard himself was shot in the hand, Burgreen said.
Hubbard was listed in fair condition Thursday after surgery for the bullet wound and treatment for other injuries. One of his purported victims was listed in critical condition at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla; the other was in good condition. The woman was not injured.
Hubbard is the prime suspect in six cases since mid-June similar to the Thursday assault. In all of the attacks, the victims were in their teens or early 20s, and the suspect was described as a black man wearing a mask, who carried a gun and struck after 1 a.m.
On Thursday, as in some of the other cases, the victims were ordered at gunpoint to tie one another before the assaults and robberies began. Hubbard, a patrol officer in the city’s northern beach areas, had worked his normal late shift Thursday and left work at 1 a.m.
Police said two men, identified as Aido Ochoa, 21, and Arthur Gracia, 23, were swimming in the ocean at Torrey Pines State Beach with a female friend at 3:50 a.m. Thursday when the woman got cold and left the water. She saw a masked man with a handgun sitting on a lifeguard tower and screamed. The two men raced out of the water to her aid.
At gunpoint, the attacker ordered one of the men to tie the hands of his male friend with rope that he had brought along. Then he ordered the woman to tie the hands of the other man. When she refused, the gunman attempted to tie the man’s hands with a belt.
The woman ran off and hid in some bushes, where she heard six shots, which police said were fired in a scuffle among the three men. Both of her friends were wounded in the chest and underwent surgery at Scripps Memorial Hospital.
Gracia was listed in good condition. Ochoa was reported in critical condition.
Police said that Hubbard arrived home in Mira Mesa about 4:30 a.m. He told his wife, Karen, that his car had broken down at the intersection of Interstate 805 and Mira Mesa Boulevard and that he had been shot in the hand by three men trying to rob him, police said. His wife drove him to UC San Diego Medical Center, where he was treated for that wound, as well as injuries to one ear and facial bruises.
Hospital officials contacted police, which is normal procedure when anyone is shot. After surgery, police arrested Hubbard on suspicion of two counts of attempted murder and one count of attempted sexual assault. He has been suspended, and Burgreen said “termination proceedings will begin” at once.
According to police, an investigator at the scene of Thursday’s assault heard that Hubbard had checked into the hospital and made the first connection that the officer might be involved in the beach attack.
Detectives combed the beach area Thursday and found evidence that they say links Hubbard to the attack, although they refused to divulge details. The beach was closed off during the day Thursday. Four police divers searched the water for the gun, which might have been tossed into the ocean.
In naming Hubbard as their prime suspect in a series of robberies and sexual assaults, police may have solved a string of attacks that dates to June 15 in Del Mar and continued into July and August.
In each of the previous cases, at least one man and one woman were victims, and they were either robbed or a robbery attempt was made. There were sexual assaults on women in four cases and an attempted rape in another. There were five robberies and two robbery attempts. All of the attacks occurred between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m.
Police issued a warning after the July 20 rapes of two girls, 13 and 14, at Windansea Beach in La Jolla. The girls were forced to tie up their male friend and were raped at gunpoint.
Thursday’s news shook the San Diego law enforcement community, still trying to recover from the shooting death of an off-duty sheriff’s deputy who was robbing an Encinitas home and beating its owner. A fellow officer shot Michael Stanewich in the midst of the robbery as he tried to grab a knife.
The Sheriff’s Department has also been hit with a series of other misconduct problems over the past several months, including two deputies charged in connection with the rape of a 16-year-old girl.
Many still view the 1986 murder of college student Cara Knott by California Highway Patrol Officer Craig Peyer as the most egregious example of a law enforcement officer gone wrong. Peyer was convicted of first-degree murder in 1988 and is serving 25 years to life in state prison.
In the case of Hubbard, Burgreen said he first heard the shocking news in a telephone call to his home at 6 a.m.
“It was (Assistant Chief) Cal Krosch . . . . He said, ‘Your worst nightmare has happened.’ And he told me what happened. And I said, ‘You’re right,’ ” Burgreen said.
There was no clear explanation at a press conference Thursday attended by Burgreen and Mayor Maureen O’Connor as to how to how an officer with the problems Hubbard apparently had was overlooked.
“We screen as well or better than any police agency in this country,” the chief said. “We provide psychological screening, polygraph tests, thorough background tests. It is very tough to become a member of this department. For something like this to happen is almost unbelievable. But it happened. At this point, I have no explanation other than people change, and apparently that’s what we have here.”
A Lancaster, S.C., native, Hubbard was a star baseball player who was drafted by the San Diego Padres in 1983. The outfielder played three seasons in the minor leagues in Spokane, Wash., and Reno, Nev. He was released after the 1985 season.
In 1986, when KFMB-TV (Channel 8) asked the San Diego Police Academy to recommend a young cadet for them to profile, the academy chose Hubbard.
“When I was a little kid, I used to run around the house saying, ‘I want to be a police officer,’ ” he said in that report.
On Thursday, one neighbor, Bill Maharrey, 67, described Hubbard as “a perfect neighbor,” who was devoted to his wife and 2-year-old daughter Samantha.
Maharrey and his wife moved into the apartment beneath the Hubbards at about the same time four years ago. He said the Hubbards were often out jogging and pushed Samantha in a stroller during their runs.
“Henry is the type who would look out for you,” he said. “He would sometimes dress up when he was a witness in court on a police case and he would look like a doctor or lawyer. I just can’t believe it.”
While investigators were at the house, Karen Hubbard broke through the police line and spoke with Maharrey.
“She said, ‘Don’t worry about me, I’ll be all right. . . . I hope,’ ” Maharrey said. “I said, ‘I’ll pray for you.’ ”
In an unusual request, Mayor O’Connor asked that the news media not contact the victims or their families, and that they not release any of their names.
O’Connor and a deputy city manager visited the hospital “to personally inform the family. These people are confused and frightened by this brutal attack. The family members did not ask to be victims.”
Both O’Connor and Burgreen stressed that San Diego police “are the finest in the country” and urged them to hold their heads high.
“I honestly believe that the public will see this for what it is: it’s one officer for an unknown reason at this time who’s gone bad,” Burgreen said.
Times staff writers Alan Abrahamson, Barry M. Horstman and Peggy Y. Lee contributed to this report.
NIGHTMARE FOR POLICE as the cases against law officers in San Diego County continue. B1
SERIES OF ATTACKS began in June. B1
A GOOD NEIGHBOR was the description Henry Hubbard’s neighbors gave. B2