VISTA, Calif. — A gunman and his getaway driver pleaded guilty Tuesday to felony charges for shooting at sheriff’s deputies who responded to reports of gunfire in a Vista neighborhood last year.
Elmer Escatel, 25, pleaded guilty to two counts of assault with a semiautomatic firearm on a peace officer and one count of shooting a firearm in a manner which could cause injury or death. Escatel, who prosecutors said was the shooter, will be sentenced to 12 years in state prison at a Nov. 13 hearing.
Ixcauatzin Morales, 21, pleaded guilty to one count each of assault with a semiautomatic firearm and shooting in a manner that could cause injury or death and will be sentenced to five years and eight months in prison.
Charges against a third defendant, Jesus Garcia Lopez, were dismissed when it was determined that he was asleep and drunk in the back seat of the car driven by Morales, according to Deputy District Attorney Keith Watanabe.
Deputies were dispatched about 11:30 p.m. last Nov. 21 in response to reports of multiple shots fired in the 900 block of Rose Drive. Witnesses said the shots were fired from a vehicle, possibly a red truck, that sped from the scene.
Over the next half-hour, several more 911 callers reported shots being fired from a red pickup truck, from the same general area as the first shots, authorities said.
Shortly after midnight, deputies spotted a red truck matching the description of the suspect vehicle, said sheriff’s Lt. Mike Munsey. As deputies attempted to stop the truck, they were fired upon by the occupants of the truck and the truck fled, he said.
No deputies or bystanders were injured.
The red truck was later found abandoned at an apartment complex on Meadow Lake Drive in Vista, and deputies narrowed their search to one unit at the complex.
Five people were eventually removed from the apartment, and two were determined to have no involvement in the shootings and were released.