A San Diego County Sheriff’s Cruiser. Photo by Chris Stone

Authorities Friday publicly identified a lawman who shot a transient wielding a realistic-looking replica pistol alongside an East County freeway.

Deputy Freddy Herrero opened fire on 31-year-old Robert Westbrook on the northbound side of state Route 125 in Santee shortly before 7 p.m. last Friday, leaving him with non-lethal bullet wounds, sheriff’s Lt. Rich Williams said.

The events that led to the shooting began about 20 minutes earlier, when deputies received a report about a man threatening to kill himself in the area.

Within about 15 minutes, patrol personnel searching for a car described by the caller found it parked next to the freeway near Grossmont College Drive, with Westbrook sitting inside.

When deputies tried to contact him, Westbrook got out of the car while clutching what appeared to be a silver handgun. During an ensuing confrontation, Herrero shot him.

The suspect’s weapon turned out to be a pellet or BB pistol, the lieutenant said.

Medics took Westbrook to a San Diego trauma center, where he was admitted and underwent surgery.

Prior to the encounter with deputies, Westbrook, who lived in his car, had made statements about wanting to commit suicide by forcing law enforcement personnel to shoot him, according to Williams.

The suspect remained hospitalized Friday afternoon, sheriff’s Capt. William Donahue said. Westbrook’s arraignment on charges of resisting peace officers and brandishing a replica firearm in a threatening manner was scheduled for Wednesday.

Herrero has been employed as a deputy with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department for four years. He is assigned to the Santee Sheriff’s Station.

—City News Service