WARNING: The video below contains explicit language and graphic images that viewers may find disturbing.
ESCONDIDO, Calif. — Police in Escondido released harrowing video Thursday from a December shootout that left an officer wounded and a gunman dead.
Roberto Salgado-Cazares was killed by police near the intersection of Mission Avenue and Gamble Street around 3 a.m. on Dec. 27. The gunfire came after authorities from multiple agencies chased the man across North County, trying with spike strips and armored vehicles to stop Salgado-Cazares before OnStar finally disabled his vehicle. He had originally been wanted on suspicion of a murder in Vista.
The video released by Escondido Police Department Thursday was voiced by Chief Ed Varso. The presentation started by establishing that the 39-year-old Salgado-Cazares was wanted on suspicion of the Vista killing, and by documenting a wild police chase that lasted well over three hours.
The video then shows Salgado-Cazares’ truck finally coming to a stop on Mission Avenue, followed closely by two armored vehicles and other police SUVs. In his voiceover, Varso says the man “immediately exited the vehicle and exchanged gunfire with two Escondido police officers” who had been riding in the armored truck behind him.
Law enforcement helicopter video, using thermal imaging, shows an officer armed with a rifle hopping out of the back of the armored truck and moving around the side toward Salgado-Cazares. Another officer is positioned atop the armored vehicle, sticking out through a hatch in the roof.
Barely visible above a tree that obscures the video, an arm can be seen reaching forward from the driver’s side door of the suspect’s truck with a handgun, pointing in the officers’ direction. Nearly simultaneously, muzzle flashes show both Salgado-Cazares and the two officers opening fire.
Cazares was struck by at least one of the officers’ bullets and badly wounded. Helicopter video shows him lying in the street shortly after the shootout, barely moving. An officer’s body-worn camera shows police and then medics attempting to treat his wounds, but he was pronounced dead at the hospital a short time later.
Before he went down, Salgado-Cazares managed to shoot Officer Danny Armenta one time, Varso said. Video from Armenta’s perspective shows he was the first officer to jump out of the armored car he was riding in, jogging around the side with his rifle drawn. The shooting breaks out almost instantly, though the officer’s body camera is obscured by his arms and doesn’t provide a clear view of Salgado-Cazares.
The officer then moves back behind the armored truck, realizing he’s been shot.
“I’m hit, I’m hit, I’m hit, I’m hit,” Armenta shouts, walking under his own power away from the scene of the shooting and toward the sidewalk. Other officers quickly come to his aid, asking where he was shot. Body camera video from one of those officers shows colleagues ripping Armenta’s gear off and finding the wound on his left side before transferring him to the back of a police SUV for safety. He was treated at the hospital and made a complete recovery, eventually returning to duty, Varso said.
In the end, police say they found six 9 millimeter rounds that Salgado-Cazares fired from a handgun. Two of the other bullets hit the armored vehicle.
Wild chase preceded the shootout
The violent confrontation on Mission Avenue came as the conclusion to an hours-long pursuit and a murder investigation that started in Vista. Salgado-Cazares was suspected of killing 42-year-old Florencio Rodriguez on Dec. 26, and a bulletin went out to officers describing him, his Chevrolet truck and the fact that he was possibly armed, Varso said.
Shortly before midnight on Dec. 26, officers spotted Salgado-Cazares’ pickup in Escondido. The driver took off when they tried to pull him over, prompting a chase that would last for more than three hours and reach speeds of well over 100 miles per hour, according to police.
Salgado-Cazares had a woman in his passenger seat, who eventually reached 911 operators by phone.
“We’re landline now with someone inside the vehicle — a female,” a dispatcher can be heard saying over the radio in video from an officer’s body camera. “We’re trying to find out if the suspect asked her to call, but we do have open communication with the subject in the vehicle.”
Emergency negotiators spoke with the pair for about two hours during the chase, trying to convince him to pull over and give up. It became clear, according to police, that the man was not going to let his passenger out of the car.
“Subject is advsing it’s ‘too late for him,'” a dispatcher tells the officer. “Trying to get him to let his cousin out of the car.”
When the chase finally ended and the gunfire broke out, that woman was able to escape the truck unharmed. Bodycam video shows officers approaching her and asking if she is OK. The woman is distraught, saying “I can’t breathe,” but she was not physically injured in the shooting, according to Varso.