SAN DIEGO — The California Highway Patrol officer who was shot in the leg while trying to help a driver on the Interstate 8 freeway last spring spoke out for the first time on Friday during a preliminary hearing for the suspect.

Yuhao Du, 25, is charged with attempted murder of a peace officer.

“I was in fear of my life, he was reaching for my pistol, that’s never happened to me,” said Tony Pacheco, the officer who was shot on April 27 in Mission Valley. “I was convinced he was going to use that gun on me.”

Pacheco says he will never forget the encounter with Du after an altercation on I-8 following Du’s car crash.

“He had a blank stare on his face, a thousand-yard stare,” Pacheco said. “It appeared as if he
was staring right through me.”

The 32-year-old claims the defendant, whose face was bleeding, said he wanted to kill himself. Pacheco was puzzled by the statement.

“I responded with what? And then he said, ‘Can you kill me?’” Pacheco said.

Moments later, he testified Du lunged towards him, put both of his hands on his service weapon and then the pair began violently fighting.

The pistol went off while still in Pacheco’s belt holster.

”I heard a loud pop, my ears are ringing,” the officer said. “I felt this extreme pain went down my leg, followed by some numbness, warm liquid running down my leg.”

In addition to the gunshot wound, Pacheco tore a tendon in his left hand while punching Du and ended up hospitalized several times for blood clots in his lungs and leg.

“I’m fighting this individual who has superhuman strength. I feel like once the gun went off and the blood was pouring, as if it gave him more strength. He just kept going. The only option I had was to get him off me and fight, that was it,” Pacheco said.

Pacheco added that his “only chance of survival was winning that fight.”

Superior Court Judge Aaron Katz ordered Du to stand trial. Du had previously pleaded not guilty by a reason of insanity. He remains in custody without bail. If he’s convicted, he could face 40 years to life in prison.