SAN DIEGO — A San Diego police officer who was shot as he pursued a wanted man into a drainage tunnel in City Heights last fall yelled “shots fired!” moments after he followed the suspect into the tunnel, a fellow officer testified Monday.
Officer Nick Minx, a tactical flight officer who videotaped the pursuit from a San Diego police helicopter, testified as a preliminary hearing got underway for Ignacio Canela, who is accused of shooting Officer Tim Bell four times on the afternoon of Oct. 24.
Minx, who narrated the aerial footage in court, testified that he heard Bell yell “shots fired!” soon after seeing him follow Canela into the drainage tunnel near state Route 15.
Minx said he saw Bell come back out of the tunnel and fall to the ground, with officers nearby transmitting “11-99” or “officer down” over the police radio.
Canela, 31, was arrested a short time later in a nearby backyard. He faces 40 years to life in prison in convicted of premeditated attempted murder and other charges.
At the defendant’s arraignment, Deputy District Attorney Michael Runyon said San Diego police officers spotted Canela — who was wanted on felony warrants — coming out of a residence on Wightman Street and saw him get into a silver Dodge SUV with a female companion.
Canela allegedly led officers on a nine-minute high-speed chase down city streets, driving close to a children’s park and nearly hitting a pedestrian, Runyon said.
The officers tailed the vehicle onto nearby state Route 15, waited until the police helicopter arrived over the area and tried to pull over Canela as he exited the freeway onto Adams Avenue.
Canela eventually reached a dead end in the 3000 block of Central Avenue. There, he and the woman jumped out of the SUV, which continued rolling and went down a brushy slope, Runyon said.
Officers chased Canela through a culvert and into the drainage tunnel, he said.
Bell, a five-year department veteran, got into a physical altercation with Canela and tried to subdue the suspect with a stun gun, Runyon said.
Bell told investigators that Canela pulled out a semiautomatic firearm and fired repeatedly at him, hitting him four times — once in the lower chest above the waist, once in the left arm and twice in the leg-buttocks area, according to Runyon.
The officer was unable to return fire, and fellow officers eventually carried Bell through the canyon for transport to a hospital, where he underwent surgery. Bell’s bulletproof vest likely prevented him from suffering considerably more serious — even fatal — injuries, authorities said.
Canela’s preliminary hearing is set to resume June 20. At its conclusion, Judge Kenneth So will decide if enough evidence was presented for the defendant to stand trial.
Story by Kelly Wheeler of City News Service.