Details in deadly deputy-involved shooting in Vista released

SAN DIEGO – Authorities Wednesday released the name of a lawman who fatally shot a probationer last week at the end of a North County foot chase.

Deputy Christopher Villanueva, who has been with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department for one year, opened fire on 24-year-old Jonathon Coronel on the morning of July 5 when the fleeing gang member allegedly made a threatening move during a confrontation in a neighborhood near Vista Village shopping center.

The events that led to the fatal gunfire began about 10:15 a.m., when patrol personnel and members of a gang-enforcement team spotted Coronel riding in a green Buick on North Melrose Drive in Vista and recognized him as the subject of an outstanding arrest warrant.

Before deputies could conduct a traffic stop, the driver of the car abruptly pulled to a halt, and Coronel jumped out and ran, sheriff’s Lt. Kenneth Nelson said.

Villanueva — who had been informed that Coronel was known to carry a handgun and allegedly had made threats to kill law enforcement officers — gave chase as the suspect fled for several blocks to the east, climbing over fences and running through private yards.

Catching up with Coronel behind a home in the 200 block of Knoll Road, the deputy found him crouched down with his right hand covered by a T-shirt, according to Nelson, who said Coronel turned to face Villanueva, simultaneously raising his shrouded arm toward the deputy. Fearing for his safety, the patrolman fired 12 to 15 rounds at the probationer with his service pistol.

The suspect, a documented gang member who resided in Vista, died from multiple gunshot wounds at the scene of the shooting, officials said.

Coronel had no weapons on him at the time of the shooting, Nelson said. Deputies did, however, recover a knife and a sharpened screwdriver or similar object along the path Coronel took while trying to escape.

Investigators were seeking to determine if the fleeing probationer might have dropped or tossed away those items during the chase.

“The investigation is continuing, as additional evidence must be evaluated and the Medical Examiner’s (autopsy) report must be finalized,” the lieutenant said. “Once the investigation is complete, the case will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for evaluation (of the deputy- involved shooting).”

Villanueva served as an officer with the Escondido Police Department before being hired by the county law enforcement agency.