A man charged with murder and attempted murder in the shootings of two San Diego police officers is accused of opening fire at point-blank range, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
Jesse Michael Gomez lay bandaged in a hospital bed as he pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carry the potential for the death penalty. Prosecutors will meet to decide whether to seek the death penalty in the case, Deputy District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said at a news conference.
The prosecutor in the case, Deputy District Attorney Michael Runyon, revealed new details in the late Thursday night shooting that left San Diego police Officer Jonathan “J.D.” De Guzman dead and critically wounded his partner, Officer Wade Irwin.
Irwin, who remains hospitalized, is expected to fully recover.
The two gang-suppression officers were driving in a marked police vehicle on Acacia Grove Way near 37th Steet in the Southcrest neighborhood when De Guzman saw two pedestrians split up, Runyon said.
The officers made a U-turn and pulled up to the men. Irwin, the passenger in the police vehicle, got out and asked one of the men if he lived in the area. Gomez “immediately” opened fire with a handgun and struck Irwin in the throat. The injured officer saw the shooter walk to the open passenger door of the police car and fire at De Guzman, who was still in the driver’s seat with his seat belt on, Runyon said.
De Guzman was struck four times before he ever reached for his gun. Police later found a shell casting in the passenger’s seat, Runyon said.
Once down, Irwin pulled out his gun and shot the suspect. At some point after he was shot, Irwin also turned on his body-worn camera, but Runyon did not specify when.
Runyon said a blood trail led police to Gomez, who was unconscious in the Chollas Creek ravine. Police also found handgun and ammunition. Gomez was taken to a hospital in critical condition.
Responding officers had found De Guzman mortally wounded, placed him in a police vehicle and rushed him to a hospital, where he died. Irwin was also taken to a hospital.
Runyon said Irwin has identified Gomez as the shooter from a series of photographs.
On Friday morning, police arrested a possible suspect on a warrant out of Anaheim. Runyon on Tuesday declined to say whether the man taken into custody, Marcos Cassani, was the second man at the scene of the shooting late Thursday.
San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said Saturday said she has seen body camera footage captured during the incident, but wouldn’t say more.
According to San Diego Superior Court Records, Gomez was sentenced in 1993 to two years in prison after pleading guilty to a charge of being a felon in possession of a gun. Three other gun charges stemming from an Oct. 20, 1992 offense were dismissed.
Gomez was convicted of two separate misdemeanor traffic violations in 2000. He was sentenced to three months’ jail time and five years on probation for driving under the influence of alcohol in one case. In the other, he got three years’ probation for driving on a revoked or suspended a license.
In 2002, he pleaded guilty to drug and gun charges and was sentenced to a year in jail with three years’ probation and orders to not have a gun in the future.
David Hernandez is a reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
7:10 p.m.: This article has been updated throughout with reporting by the San Diego Union-Tribune.
4:45 p.m.: This article has been updated with information about Gomez’s family and work history.
4:35 p.m.: This article has been updated with more information and background.
This article was originally published at 4:15 p.m.