SAN DIEGO — An ex-con accused of fatally shooting San Diego police Officer Jonathan “J.D.” De Guzman and wounding his partner during a traffic stop in Southcrest last week was ordered Wednesday to remain in custody on $5 million bail.
Jesse Michael Gomez, 52, is charged with murder, attempted murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The defendant, who was critically wounded during the exchange of gunfire late Thursday and was found by officers who followed a trail of blood, was arraigned in a wheelchair in a conference room at UCSD Medical Center by Superior Court Judge Joan Weber.
A special circumstance allegation of murder of a police officer makes Gomez eligible for the death penalty if convicted. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said after the arraignment that she will decide at a later date whether to seek capital punishment.
De Guzman, a 16-year SDPD veteran, and Officer Wade Irwin, who’s been a San Diego officer for nine years, were on patrol on Acacia Grove Way when they spotted two men — one of them was Gomez — walking along a sidewalk, Deputy District Attorney Michael Runyon said.
One of the men suddenly crossed the street and De Guzman made a U-turn and pulled up next to Gomez, the prosecutor told the judge.
Irwin got out of the patrol car, walked up to Gomez and asked if he lived in the area, Runyon said, and was met by gunfire. Irwin was shot in the throat, sending him to the pavement next to the patrol car, the prosecutor said.
Gomez allegedly then shot De Guzman five times at close range while the officer was still strapped into the driver’s seat. One of the bullets entered the officer’s right side, punctured both lungs, severed his spine and hit a pulmonary artery.
Runyon said 13 spent bullet shells were found next to and inside the patrol car.
Irwin was able to get off a few shots despite his injuries, critically injuring Gomez, then activated his body camera and called for help, authorities said.
The second man, who was white or Hispanic, wearing glasses and smoking a cigarette, has not been found, according to police.
Gomez’s criminal history dates back to the 1980s when he was charged with auto theft. He was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm in 1992, and his most recent crime was in 2002, according to Runyon.
Police said he was found in a ravine near the shooting scene, wearing an empty gun holster. The gun he allegedly used in the shooting and ammunition were found nearby.
De Guzman died at a hospital, leaving behind a wife and two children. Irwin, who’s married and the father of a 19-month-old child, is expected to make a full recovery.
“I want the public to know that this is something that we will not stand for,” Dumanis said. “We will do everything that we can to make sure that the person responsible for this is held accountable and that justice is done.”
SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman, who appeared at a news conference in front of the hospital with Dumanis and Runyan, said Irwin continues to improve, but still has a long recovery ahead of him. He’s eager to get back to work, she said.
“An attack on a police officer is an attack on our society and we must all stand together in peace and unity as we move forward from this tragic incident,” Zimmerman said.
Weber scheduled the next hearing, a status conference, for Sept. 1.