SAN DIEGO – Officers opened fire on a driver who repeatedly tried to slam into patrol vehicles during a pursuit from Spring Valley to downtown late Thursday, authorities said.
The suspect, identified as 21-year-old La Mesa resident Jeremiah Fetalaiga, was uninjured in the officer-involved shooting, San Diego police Lt. Mike Holden said. The officer who fired on Fetalaiga and later crashed into the SUV was not named but was identified as a nine-year veteran of the San Diego Police Department.
The shooting occurred in Barrio Logan at the Metropolitan Transit System trolley yard on Newton Avenue south of Petco Park, and the suspect was later arrested where the chase ended on Sixth Avenue and Broadway about two blocks from Horton Plaza, Holden said.
The intersection at Sixth Avenue and Broadway was expected to be closed until about 10 a.m. as detectives wrapped up their investigation, the San Diego Police Department tweeted.
The pursuit began about 10 minutes before midnight when a San Diego County sheriff's deputy tracking a LoJack signal came across the stolen Range Rover SUV in Spring Valley, Holden told reporters at the scene. The SDPD's Airborne Law Enforcement helicopter joined the pursuit early on, helping sheriff's deputies and later California Highway Patrol officers track the Range Rover on northbound state Route 125, westbound Interstate 8 and southbound state Route 163 into downtown.
SDPD officers joined the chase as it entered downtown but discontinued the pursuit for safety reasons, Holden said. But the police helicopter continued to track the Range Rover as it drove erratically through downtown.
"During this time, the suspect encountered SDPD units who were deployed in the area," Holden said. "On one occasion, the suspect intentionally tried to ram an occupied, marked SDPD unit that had pulled to the curb. On another occasion, the suspect attempted to ram a uniformed SDPD officer that was out of his car and attempting to set up a spike strip."
Officers used "evasive maneuvers" to avoid being hit, Holden said.
In Barrio Logan, officers were following Fetalaiga at a distance when he drove into the MTS trolley yard at 1535 Newton Ave., Holden said.
"As the first officer drove into the yard, the suspect turned his vehicle around and accelerated directly at the officer who was still in his vehicle," Holden said. "Fearing that the suspect was going to intentionally ram his marked vehicle, the officer fired several rounds at the suspect from his handgun. The suspect swerved and drove out of the yard. No collision occurred."
Police re-engaged the chase, and when Fetalaiga attempted a slow U-turn at Sixth Avenue and Broadway, the same officer who fired the shots earlier "intentionally struck the suspect's vehicle, ending the pursuit."
Fetalaiga "did not sustain any injuries as a result of the officer- involved shooting," Holden said. He did complain of pain after the crash and was taken to a hospital, where he was medically cleared.
"Shout out to my mom, bro," Fetalaiga was heard yelling to news cameras at the scene. "I love you, mom."
He was arrested on suspicion of several counts of assault on police officers with a deadly weapon, felony failure to yield and possession of the stolen Range Rover, Holden said.
San Diego homicide detectives were asked to investigate the incident -- typical in an officer-involved shooting case, even when nobody is injured or killed -- and processed the shooting scene first before moving onto the crash scene, Holden said. The investigators were still working the crash scene this morning and expected to be in the area until about 10 a.m.