UPDATE: CHP identifies officer shot on freeway

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misstated one of Du’s potential charges. It is first-degree attempted murder.

SAN DIEGO – Authorities have publicly identified the man suspected of an “unprovoked attack” on a California Highway Patrol officer that left the lawman in the hospital with a gunshot wound to his leg.

Yuhao Du, 25, was arrested Wednesday shortly after the shooting at about 6:30 p.m., California Highway Patrol said in a news release. The officer got shot on the eastbound side of Interstate 8, below Interstate 805 in the Mission Valley area.

The shooting happened shortly after Du crashed his car on I-8, CHP said in Thursday’s update. An officer investigating the crash approached Du, who was the only person involved in the collision, as he stood in the center median in front of his car.

When the officer got near Du, he “suddenly attacked the officer,” according to CHP. The driver tried to grab the officer’s gun and the officer fought back, struggling to hold on to his weapon. During that fight, the gun fired once, hitting the officer in the leg.

In a news conference late Thursday afternoon, CHP clarified that it remained unclear who or what pulled the trigger during the struggle. Jail records show Du, a San Diego resident, faces charges of first-degree attempted murder, assaulting a police officer with a firearm, taking an officer’s firearm and causing great bodily injury.

Officials praised witnesses who stepped in to help the officer after he got shot.

“Several passing motorists stopped to assist the injured officer by providing medical aid and restraining Du until additional law enforcement arrived,” CHP said in the news release.

The officer was hospitalized in “serious but stable” condition at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Hillcrest, CHP said. Officials later identified him as seven-year veteran Tony Pacheco and said he was expected to survive the attack.

“I am extremely grateful for the members of the public who put themselves in harms way to help our officer after he was shot in the leg,” CHP Chief Scott Parker said in a written statement. “This incident could have ended in a greater tragedy had those individuals not intervened. … Our thoughts and prayers are with the officer and his family as he recovers from his injuries.”

The investigation into the shooting prompted the closure of the eastbound and westbound lanes of I-8 at I-805 for several hours, causing heavy traffic and backups into the late evening hours.

Anyone with information about the shooting was urged to call CHP Investigative Services at 858-650-3620.