LA MESA, Calif. — Authorities Friday released the name of a lawman who opened fire on an assault suspect who allegedly charged him with a machete over his head in a busy intersection near Grossmont Center mall.
La Mesa police Officer Peter West shot 34-year-old Bernard Eugene Graham of Spring Valley twice at Fletcher Parkway and Amaya Drive about 9 a.m. Monday, leaving him with non-fatal wounds to his abdomen and one of his arms, LMPD Capt. Ray Sweeney said.
The events that led to the shooting began about a half-hour earlier, when Graham allegedly confronted a 13-year-old girl as she was walking to school near La Mesa Skatepark and threw a closed folding pocket knife at her, striking her with it.
The terrified girl ran off, and the assailant gave chase, Sweeney said. The teen managed to elude him by fleeing into a nearby sandwich shop, where she reported what had happened.
When patrol officers confronted Graham a short time later, he ignored their commands to drop the large knife he was carrying and allegedly rushed toward West, prompting him to open fire in self-defense, the captain said.
While Graham was hospitalized for treatment of his gunshot wounds, prosecutors filed two counts each of assault with a deadly weapon and resisting a peace officer against him. The charges carry a combined potential sentence of 55 years to life in prison.
Graham, who has a 2004 conviction for arson, is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday.
The officer who shot the suspect has been with the La Mesa Police Department for one year, Sweeney said. Prior to joining the East County law enforcement agency, West was employed by the Calexico Police Department for eight years.