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San Diego Officer Slain; Gunman Dies in Shootout

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An eager young San Diego police officer--who had been given the “inspiration” award in the name of the last officer slain in the line of duty--was shot to death early Tuesday morning as he responded to a domestic dispute.

Police shot and killed the suspect nearly 12 hours later. Officer Ronald W. Davis, 24, who worked the graveyard shift and volunteered for extra assignments to learn more about police work, was hit once in the throat and once in the shoulder at about 6 a.m. He was pronounced dead 20 minutes later at Mercy Hospital.

Police said Arnaldo Devilla Castillo, 34, fired the fatal shots after Davis and his partner responded as backup to a domestic disturbance call.

Police said Castillo was shot and killed nearly 12 hours later after he was discovered under a car in the parking lot of the complex. He shot at a group of officers who returned the fire, hitting him twice, police said. He was transported to Mercy Hospital and pronounced dead at 5:03 p.m.

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The officers had been told that a man with a gun had run from an apartment after allegedly beating up his girlfriend, pointing a gun at her 9-year-old son’s head and threatening to kill himself.

Davis and his partner, Bob Anschnick, knew the 448-unit apartment complex in Southeast San Diego well, having worked to help rid it of serious crime over the past six months by spending extra hours there, said Harry Jones, the manager of the complex.

As Davis and Anschnick drove up, they spotted a car backing out of the parking lot and blocked it. Police said Davis may have flashed a hand-held spotlight on the driver as he remarked to his partner, before stepping out of the car, that the man fit the description of the gunman.

Police said Castillo, a former hospital housekeeping aide, opened his car door, stood up, swung around and fired two or three shots. Davis was hit twice.

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Anschnick fired several shots but missed, police said. Castillo ran away after the shooting.

Police sealed off all entrances to the complex in an intense manhunt for Castillo, who had lived at one of the apartments with his girlfriend, Lilia Bautista, and her son, Glenn Lee Ramirez, since July of 1990.

Police said Castillo pointed a gun at the head of Ramirez early Tuesday morning and threatened to shoot Bautista and then himself, according to a neighbor who sheltered Bautista for several hours.

The 28th San Diego police officer to die in the line of duty since 1913, Davis had been on the force for less than two years.

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After graduating from the Police Academy, he was given the Jerry Hartless Award for inspiration. Hartless was killed after chasing a group of men known for drug dealing in Southeast San Diego.

Davis lived in Escondido in northern San Diego County with his wife, Wendy, and their two sons, ages 4 and 1 1/2. He spent four years in the Marine Corps before joining the department. He was assigned to the graveyard shift, typical for rookies, but volunteered for as many shifts as he could.

“He was an academy role model,” said Officer John Russell. “He was an All-American kid. He had no timidness about him.”

Police Chief Bob Burgreen called it a “sad, sad day for the department.”

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