A San Diego police officer was seriously injured and a vandalism suspect may not survive after being struck by a vehicle in the Midway District early Thursday, officials confirmed.
A white SUV slammed into the two just before 5 a.m. as the officer had the suspect pinned to the ground in the middle of Rosecrans Street near Midway Drive, San Diego Police Department Sgt. Thomas Sullivan said.
An official with the San Diego Police Officers Association (SDPOA) identified the SDPD officer involved in the crash as officer Matthew Lorenzen.
A woman who witnessed the crash told NBC 7 southbound lanes of Rosecrans Street were dark and the two were on the ground in the middle of the roadway, probably making it difficult for the driver to see them.
"No way that she could have seen them. It was dark, they were on the ground in the middle of the street," Tanya Daley said. "There's no flashing lights, there’s no way to tell anybody was on the ground. You would’ve never known."
The man, believed to be in his early- to mid-30s, was suspected of vandalism for breaking windows at a nearby 7-Eleven with a pipe, SDPD traffic investigations Lt. Duane Voss said.
Officers arrived to the scene and located the man, at which point one officer stopped his patrol vehicle on northbound Rosecrans Street and pursued the suspect on foot across the street.
Daley described seeing the man being tailed by the officer. She said the man jay-walked across Rosecrans Street once and then turned back around after encountering a fence.
As the man attempted to cross Rosecrans Street for a second time, he was cornered by the officer, who grabbed him and pinned him to the ground in southbound lanes, Daley said.
"[The officer] takes him down with his wrist and just pins him down in the middle of the street," she described.
SDPD confirmed that it was while Lorenzen had the suspect pinned that an oncoming SUV struck the pair.
"And then, boom, an SUV just hit them and it felt like a horror movie because I could hear the bones cracking," Daley said.
After the crash, the driver pulled over into a nearby parking lot and stayed at the scene. Lt. Voss said she appeared reasonably distraught and cooperated with his investigators.
"From the appearance of it, she was just driving down the street and trying to do the right thing and avoid the police car," Voss said.
Drugs, alcohol and speed were not suspected to be factors in the crash.
Lorenzen was taken to a local hospital with serious injuries. The suspect was also taken to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries.
Daley described seeing both people unconscious; the suspect was bleeding from his head, though SDPD has not confirmed that information.
"I thought they were dead. I thought I had witnessed people dying, that’s why I was screaming like bloody murder," she said.
When asked whether the officer could have attempted to take the man into custody away from the street, Lt. Voss said the entire incident was "dynamic" and appears to have happened very quickly.
"The man makes a decision when the police say stop… we can order them but if you run, you’ve committed a crime and the officer is just trying to place them into custody," Voss said.
The lieutenant said there were body cameras that would be looked at to determine the details leading up to and of the crash.
The investigation shut down a busy stretch of Rosecrans Street during Thursday's morning commute. SDPD had a traffic division investigating the crash and a separate unit investigating the vandalism incident, Voss said.