SAN DIEGO — A San Diego police officer who survived a shooting that took the life of his partner testified Monday that the assailant shot him in the throat without provocation before turning the gun on his colleague, prompting him to return fire.
Officer Wade Irwin took the stand as preliminary hearing testimony got underway to determine whether there is enough evidence to warrant a trial for Jesse Michael Gomez, who is charged with murder and attempted murder, with a special circumstance allegation of murder of a police officer. The 58-year-old defendant, who is being held without bail, could face the death penalty if convicted.
Gomez is accused of shooting Irwin and fellow gang-unit Officer Jonathan “J.D.” DeGuzman about 11 p.m. on July 28, 2016, when they tried to detain him in the 3700 block of Acacia Grove Way.
DeGuzman, a 16-year SDPD veteran, was pronounced dead after being rushed to a hospital.
Gomez was taken into custody in a ravine off South 38th Street, a short distance from the scene, and was hospitalized with a gunshot wound to his upper body.
Irwin testified that as he and DeGuzman were patrolling the area, they saw two men split up and start walking along the north and south sidewalks of Acacia Grove Way.
Irwin said he believed the man on the south side — who he later learned was Gomez — was someone else he had previously arrested. DeGuzman stopped the car and Irwin got out of the passenger side, leaving the door open, he said.
Irwin then asked Gomez, “Hey, do you live in the area?” and Gomez “almost immediately” shot him, the witness testified. The officer said Gomez then approached the open passenger door of the patrol car and fired into the vehicle, where DeGuzman was sitting.
After being shot, Irwin said he fell into the side of the patrol car and was sitting up near the rear tire. He said he had “a lot of blood” in his throat and it was hard to breathe.
“I believed (Gomez) was going to execute me if he saw I was still alive,” Irwin testified. “I needed to stop the threat. So I took out my handgun with my right hand. I reached across my body and I began to shoot at him.”
He said that after Gomez shot his partner, he drew his gun and fired several times on the shooter, who was running eastbound.
Irwin testified that he was taken to UC San Diego Medical Center for treatment of a collapsed lung, paralysis to his right diaphragm and vocal cords, facial numbness and nerve damage. Irwin said he remained in the hospital for 23 days and still suffers from the lingering effects of the injuries.
While in the hospital, he was shown photographic lineups that included Gomez and the man he originally believed Gomez to be. He testified that he identified Gomez as the shooter and that the other man was not at the scene or involved in the shooting.
Testimony continues Tuesday morning at the downtown San Diego courthouse.