A man suspected of shooting two San Diego police gang-unit officers in a Southcrest neighborhood, killing one of them, was in critical condition Friday with a wound he suffered from one of the lawmen’s return fire.
Jesse Michael Gomez, 52, allegedly shot SDPD Officers Jonathan “J.D.” DeGuzman and Wade Irwin about 11 p.m. Thursday, when they tried to detain him in the 3700 block of Acacia Grove Way, just east of the Interstate 5/state Route 15 interchange.
The reason for the attempted field stop, and whether Gomez was on foot or in a vehicle at the time, remained unclear this afternoon, according to police.
Patrol personnel responding to the gang officers’ emergency call for backup found them suffering from gunshot wounds to their upper bodies.
DeGuzman, 43, and Irwin, 32, were rushed to hospitals. DeGuzman, a 16- year SDPD veteran, was pronounced dead later in the night.
Irwin, who has been with the department for nine years, underwent surgery and was expected to survive, police Chief Shelley Zimmerman told reporters.
Gomez was taken into custody in a ravine off South 38th Street, a short distance from the scene of the shooting. He was hospitalized for treatment of a gunshot wound to his upper body.
Around daybreak, officers surrounded a house in the 4000 block of Epsilon Street and began trying to contact a second man suspected of having been involved in the deadly confrontation.
During an ensuing SWAT standoff at the home, officers arrested Marcus Antonio Cassani, 41, nearby on an unrelated outstanding warrant. Zimmerman described him as a “potential suspect” in the shooting of the officers.
“At this time, we have not determined if Cassani is involved in the murder of Officer DeGuzman and the attempt murder of Officer Irwin,” the chief told news crews during a late-afternoon briefing at downtown police headquarters.
At midday, Irwin was “resting comfortably” with his wife by his side, with a good prognosis but facing “a little bit of a long haul” to fully regain his health, Zimmerman said.
The chief said she had been acquainted with the slain officer, whom she described as a “loving, caring husband (and) father” who “talked about his family all the time.”
“I personally worked with him when I was a lieutenant at Mid-City Division,” she said. “I know him, and this is gut-wrenching. He cared. He came to work every single day just wanting to make a positive difference in the lives of our community. And last night he lost his life trying to make a positive difference and trying to protect our community.”
Zimmerman called Irwin “so dedicated” and characterized him as a man who “cares so deeply for his family, cares so deeply for our community and (who) went out there every single night, wanting to make a positive difference in the lives of our community members.”
Other law enforcement agencies and government officials decried the deadly shooting as well.
“Last night we lost one of San Diego’s finest,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who was out of town at the time of the shooting and headed back to town upon learning about it. “We grieve for our fallen officer and stand with his family during this very difficult time. We also pray for the second officer shot last night as he recovers from surgery.”
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said the shooting had “sent a shock wave through law enforcement and the wider San Diego community.”
“This senseless act once again highlights the dangers our peace officers face on a daily basis as they work to ensure and protect the public’s safety,” Dumanis said. “(My) Crimes Against Peace Officers Unit is working closely with SDPD to investigate and review this case so those responsible for this cowardly act will be held accountable.”
Sheriff Bill Gore said his agency’s personnel “grieve with the men and women of the San Diego Police Department.”
“On behalf of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, I want to extend my deepest condolences to the family of Officer Jonathan DeGuzman,” he said. “We also want to wish Officer Wade Irwin a full recovery. We stand in solidarity with our colleagues at the San Diego Police Department and all who work in law enforcement.”
Gov. Jerry Brown said he was “deeply saddened to learn of the tragic death of Officer Jonathan DeGuzman.”
“Each day, officers risk their lives to keep our communities safe, and Officer DeGuzman’s brave service and sacrifice will not be forgotten,” the governor stated.
Chula Vista police officials aid in a statement that their officers’ “hearts are heavy after the tragic loss” of DeGuzman and that they were “praying for the speedy recovery” of Irwin.
“Our condolences go out to San Diego police officers, and to their families and loved ones,” the CVPD statement said. “The entire law enforcement community stands with you this morning in solidarity.”
The shooting came less than two weeks after a man with ties to San Diego fatally ambushed officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, killing three and wounding three others. Five officers in Dallas were also killed by a gunman earlier this month.
Faulconer called for support of law enforcement officers nationwide.
“Violence against the men and women who wear the badge is violence against us all,” the mayor said. “I ask all San Diegans and all people across our nation to join together in support of our officers who courageously protect our communities. We need them and they need us.”
Even Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump responded to the shooting, saying via Twitter “Two policemen just shot in San Diego, one dead. It is only getting worse. People want LAW AND ORDER!”
Zimmerman lamented recent increases in violence against police officers across the country.
“That’s just a tragic statistic of police officers that go out every single day that wear a badge with pride that we all took an oath to protect and serve all of our communities,” she said. “And to have this happen to our police officers — we have seen this happen way too many times just in these last few weeks across our great country. It is tragic for everyone.”
Prior to Thursday, the most recent on-duty death of a San Diego police officer had been that of 36-year-old Jeremy Henwood. The four-year police department veteran and Marine reservist had just bought a meal for a child at a City Heights fast-food restaurant when he was fatally shot by a suicidal man who pulled up alongside his cruiser on University Avenue at 45th Street on Aug. 6, 2011. Henwood died in a hospital early the next day.
On Oct. 28, 2010, Officer Chris Wilson, 50, was shot to death during a probation raid at a Skyline-area apartment complex.
The San Diego Police Officers Association has established a fund for DeGuzman’s family. Checks made payable to the organization, with “Officer Jonathan DeGuzman” in the memo line, may be sent to the SDPOA’s offices at 8388 Vickers St., San Diego, CA 92111.
Donations also may be made online at sdpoa.org/about-widows-orphans-fund.
–City News Service