Authorities Wednesday publicly identified three lawmen who fatally shot a City Heights resident last month after he gunned down a neighbor for unknown reasons and then pointed a pistol at responding police personnel.
San Diego Police Officers Andrew Campbell, Christopher Luth and Tony Maraschiello opened fire on Ronnie Kong, 32, at an apartment complex in the 3800 block of Euclid Avenue late on the afternoon of May 29. Kong died at the scene.
Several hours earlier, Kong shot and killed a neighbor, 62-year-old Juan Gudino Lopez, then fled into his nearby upstairs residence, Lt. Matt Dobbs said.
After responding officers carried Lopez to a safe place, medics took him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Police then surrounded Kong’s apartment “and began gathering resources to deal with a possibly barricaded murder suspect,” the lieutenant said.
“As the incident developed, it became clear the resources available to the patrol officers to safely deal with the situation had been exceeded,” Dobbs said. “The assistance of (a) SWAT team was requested.”
While the special weapons and tactics personnel were arriving and beginning to take up positions at the complex, Kong emerged from his apartment.
“The suspect was given directions to surrender, but he refused to cooperate,” Dobbs said. “The suspect walked halfway down the stairs towards the officers’ positions and challenged them to come get him before retreating back into his apartment.”
Kong remained holed up in the residence until about 5:45 p.m., when he walked outside once more and began approaching police.
“The suspect again refused to cooperate with the directions being given by the officers,” the lieutenant said. “When the suspect had descended halfway down the stairs, he extended a pistol in the direction of the officers. (Campbell, Luth and Maraschiello) fired their weapons at the suspect, striking him several times.”
Homicide detectives investigating the case subsequently learned that Kong’s mother had contacted police earlier in the week to report that he had threatened her with a handgun and fired off several rounds in their apartment.
Officers were in the process of preparing an arrest warrant and a gun-violence restraining order for Kong when the fatal shooting occurred, police said.
“The suspect’s mother told investigators her son wanted to be involved in a shooting with the police and to commit `suicide by cop,”‘ according to Dobbs.
The motive for the slaying of Lopez remains a mystery.
“The victim was a longtime handyman at the neighboring property, so (he and Kong) were not complete strangers,” Dobbs said this week. “We have no idea what led to the shooting.”
Campbell and Maraschiello have been with the San Diego Police Department for six years, and Luth for 15 years. The latter officer is a member of the SDPD Canine Unit, and the other two are assigned to SDPD Northern Division and were deployed as part of the SWAT team at the time of the officer- involved shooting.
— City News Service
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