Officer Probably Aware of Police Beach Stakeouts : Crime: Investigators were actively on the lookout for suspect in series of beach rapes in La Jolla and North County cities.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

San Diego Police Officer Henry Hubbard Jr., the prime suspect in a series of attempted robberies and sexual assaults at local beaches over the past two months, probably knew about police stakeouts at those locations, a senior officer said Friday.

Assistant Chief Cal Krosch said investigators from the sex crimes unit conducted at least five stakeouts at city beaches over that same time, looking for a masked suspect. They routinely informed officers in the department's Northern Division about their work so patrol officers would not accidentally blow their cover.

Hubbard, 29, a 4 1/2-year patrol officer, patrolled in the La Jolla beach area, where three of the seven attacks occurred. He was arrested Thursday on suspicion of attempted murder in an assault on two young men who came to the aid of a 21-year-old woman whom police said Hubbard was trying to rape.

"There is a good likelihood that he could have been aware of the stakeouts," Krosch said. "Of course, someone with that knowledge would not try to commit a crime" at the same time and place as the stakeouts.

Hubbard may also have been aware of a San Diego County Sheriff's Department stakeout of North County beaches where four of the attacks occurred. Detective Floyd Feese, who was working the case, said his department used officers posing as young couples as decoys and passed advance information to the Police Department's Northern Division.

All of the attacks involve attempted robbery and sexual assaults from La Jolla to Solana Beach.

Meanwhile, police sources confirmed Friday that a flashlight engraved with Hubbard's name was found on the beach shortly after the attack, the firmest evidence yet that the officer was at the scene. Krosch refused to confirm or deny that.

Police have confiscated guns from Hubbard's Mira Mesa home and his locker at work, and gathered other evidence at Torrey Pines State Beach, where the attack occurred at 3:50 a.m. Thursday.

Authorities said two men--Aldo Ochoa, 21, and Arthur Gracia, 23--were swimming with a woman companion when the woman got cold and left the water. She approached a lifeguard tower and saw a masked man sitting there. When she screamed, her two companions ran out of the water toward him.

The masked man had a gun and ordered one man to tie up the other. Then he told the woman to bind the second man's hands. When she refused, the gunman tried to do it himself.

The woman ran off and heard six shots as she ran. Ochoa and Gracia were hit in the chest. The gunman, who police say somehow shot his own left hand in the confrontation, ran away, and the woman drove her two companions to a phone, where she called police.

At Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, Ochoa's condition was upgraded Friday from critical to serious, and Gracia remained in good condition. The woman was not wounded.

Hubbard got home about 4:30 a.m. Thursday, according to police. He told his wife that his car had stalled at Interstate 805 and Mira Mesa Boulevard, about 5 miles from the beach, police said. Hubbard told her he had been shot in the hand by one of three men trying to rob him, authorities said.

Karen Hubbard drove her husband to UC San Diego Medical Center, where the hospital staff notified police of the gunshot wound, as they are required to do.

Out at Torrey Pines State Park, at the scene of the shooting, the investigator, Sgt. Richard M. O'Hanlon, heard on his scanner that a police officer had arrived at the medical center with a gunshot wound in one hand. He realized that the general description matched the description the victims had just given him and linked Hubbard to the shooting, police said.

Hubbard is to be arraigned Monday, possibly in his hospital room at UC San Diego Medical Center, after prosecutors weigh charges against him over the weekend. He has been suspended from his job, and police have begun termination proceedings.

Hired in December, 1986, Hubbard had been a professional baseball player for three years, playing for minor league teams in the San Diego Padres organization in Reno, Nev., and Spokane, Wash.

Padre catcher Benito Santiago was a teammate of Hubbard's in 1984 at Reno, then a Padre Class A team. Santiago said Friday that he has run into Hubbard a couple of times since, in the Pacific Beach area.

"Sure, I remember him," Santiago said. "I couldn't believe it, either. He was a great guy. It's too bad. I guess he's in some deep (trouble), huh?"

Santiago described Hubbard as a "quiet but likable guy. Everybody on the team liked him."

Hubbard's parents said that, growing up in Lancaster, S.C., he always wanted to be a cop.

Contrary to published reports that Hubbard finished first in his Police Academy class, Hubbard finished in the bottom half, police spokesman Bill Robinson said, but he was so well-regarded that the department offered him as the subject of a television interview seeking an example of a quality cadet.

He is one of six officers named in a federal lawsuit involving the beating of a man in Mission Beach in May, 1990.

Since his arrest, Hubbard has hired an attorney and refused to talk with police investigators. The Police Officers Assn., which usually represents officers for legal problems related to their jobs, has refused to provide representation for Hubbard.

His wife began preparations to move Friday from the Hubbards' Mira Mesa apartment where they have lived for four years, according to a woman who came to the door when a reporter inquired. The couple have a daughter who is almost 2 years old.

At the Northern Division station Friday, officers were still upset about the arrest.

"Based on the level of shock around here, I would say (Hubbard) was very well-liked," said Lt. Randy Nisleit, acting captain at the station. "Most people are pretty shocked. Kind of numb. Angry. And recovering. We're trying just to get through this."

San Diego County has had its share of problem police officers in recent years. In 1988, Craig Peyer, a California Highway Patrol officer, was convicted in the strangulation death of college student Cara Knott. He is serving a 25-years-to-life sentence in state prison.

Last month, Sheriff's Deputy Michael Stanewich, in the midst of committing an armed robbery at an Encinitas home and beating its owner, was shot to death by a fellow officer from the same patrol station.

Earlier this year, Sheriff's Deputy Gilberto Balcazar pleaded guilty to sex crimes against two women while on duty and was sentenced to five years probation.

Times staff writers Michael Granberry and Bob Nightengale contributed to this report.

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