Men get prison time for shooting at deputies during chase

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SAN DIEGO — Two men were sentenced to state prison Wednesday for shooting at sheriff’s deputies who responded to reports of gunfire in a Vista neighborhood in 2017.

Elmer Escatel, who prosecutors said was the shooter, was sentenced to 12 years behind bars. The 25-year-old defendant pleaded guilty last September to two counts of assault with a semiautomatic firearm on a peace officer and one count of shooting a firearm in a manner which could cause injury or death.

The getaway driver, Ixcauatzin Morales, 22, was sentenced to five years and four months in prison. He pleaded guilty to one count each of assault with a semiautomatic firearm and shooting in a manner that could cause injury or death.

Charges against a third defendant, Jesus Garcia Lopez, were dismissed when it was determined that he was asleep and drunk in the back seat of the car driven by Morales, according to Deputy District Attorney Keith Watanabe.

Deputies were dispatched about 11:30 p.m. on Nov. 21, 2017, in response to reports of multiple shots fired in the 900 block of Rose Drive. Witnesses said the shots were fired from a vehicle, possibly a red truck, that sped from the scene. Over the next half-hour, several more 911 callers reported shots being fired from a red pickup truck, from the same general area as the first shots.

Shortly after midnight, deputies spotted a red truck matching the description of the suspect vehicle, said sheriff’s Lt. Mike Munsey. As deputies attempted to stop the truck, they were fired upon by its occupants, he said, but no deputies or bystanders were injured.

The truck was later found abandoned at an apartment complex on Meadow Lake Drive in Vista, and deputies narrowed their search to one unit at the complex.

Five people were eventually removed from the apartment. Two who were determined to have had no involvement in the shootings were released.

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