‘I Didn't Want to Die': SDPD Officer Wounded by Southcrest Cop Killer Describes Moment When He and Partner Were Shot on Job

San Diego Police Department Officer Jonathan J.D. De Guzman, 43, and his gang-unit partner Officer Wade Irwin were shot in the line of duty on July 28, 2016; De Guzman did not survive

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A San Diego Police Department officer wounded in the line of duty five years ago – as his partner was killed just feet away from him – recalled the terrifying moments when he thought, he too, was going to die. He couldn’t stop thinking about his baby girl and his wife.

In emotional testimony Tuesday, SDPD Officer Wade Irwin remembered that horrific day – July 28, 2016 – as he took the stand in the trial of Jesse Gomez, the man accused of firing on Irwin and his SDPD partner, Jonathan “J.D.” De Guzman.

“I immediately began thinking about my 18-month-old daughter,” Irwin said on the stand in a San Diego courtroom. “Started thinking about my wife, started thinking about my family. I believed at that time, if the defendant saw that I was alive, I would be executed. I was concerned for my partner and his safety; I didn’t want to die.”

“I knew that if I was going to survive this, I was going to have to fight to stay alive,” he added.

I immediately began thinking about my 18-month-old daughter. Started thinking about my wife, started thinking about my family. I didn’t want to die.

SDPD Officer Wade Irwin
NBC 7's Artie Ojeda shares chilling footage played in court, and the defense's argument heard in opening statements.

Irwin recalled seeing Gomez raising his hands before he shot Irwin in the throat.

“He had an angry, hateful look on his face,” he testified.

Irwin said he fell backwards after being shot by Gomez.

He then put his hand up to this bleeding throat, trying to apply pressure to his wound.

“I knew I was critically injured,” Irwin recalled.

With his other hand, Irwin said he managed to grab his service gun. Then, he began to shoot at Gomez. Prosecutor Valerie Summers said Irwin fired nine times, striking Gomez twice. The defendant still has a bullet lodged in his body.

At Gomez’s trial Tuesday, the court was also shown SDPD video from Irwin’s body-worn camera during the deadly encounter with Gomez.

In the video, Irwin can be heard gasping for air as he calls for backup.

De Guzman -- a 16-year veteran of the police department -- died in the shooting. Irwin was hospitalized for nearly a month.

Opening statements for the murder trial of a 60-year-old man accused of killing an SDPD officer has begun.

Trial of Jesse Gomez, So Far

Opening statements in the trial of Gomez, 60, began on Aug. 17. The proceedings are expected to last several weeks.

Gomez is charged with murder and attempted murder, plus a special circumstance allegation of murder of a police officer, for the shootings of De Guzman and Irwin in the Shelltown neighborhood south of downtown San Diego on July 28. 2016.

Last week, Summers said in her opening statement that Gomez knew he would go to jail if he was caught with a weapon. That was his motive, she said, so he started firing on officers immediately.

Gomez's defense attorney, Jessica Petry, does not deny that his client got into a gunfire exchange with officers. But he argues Gomez did not know it was police officers who were approaching that night and fired because he feared for his life – especially in a neighborhood known for its gang activity.

Gomez remains at San Diego Central Jail, held without bail.

If convicted of the special circumstances allegation of murder of a police officer, he could face the death penalty.

July 28, 2016: SDPD Officers De Guzman, Irwin Shot in Line of Duty

On the night of July 28, 2016, De Guzman, 43, and his fellow SDPD gang unit partner, Irwin, were patrolling the Shelltown neighborhood of San Diego.

At Gomez’s preliminary hearing in 2019, Irwin testified that as he and De Guzman patrolled, they noticed two men split up and start walking along the north and south sidewalks of Acacia Grove Way.

“We have two heroes,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said of Officers Jonathan “JD” De Guzman and Wade Irwin at a press conference on July 30. The officers were shot in Southcrest on July 28. De Guzman did not survive.

Irwin said he thought the man on the south side was someone else he had previously arrested. De Guzman stopped the car and Irwin got out of the passenger side, leaving the door open.

Irwin approached the man – Gomez – and asked if he lived in the area. Irwin testified in 2019 that upon speaking to Gomez, the officers were shot “almost immediately.”

The officer said Gomez walked up to the open passenger door of the SDPD patrol car and fired, point-blank, at De Guzman as he sat in the driver’s seat. Prosecutors have said the attack on De Guzman happened so quickly, he didn’t even have time to draw his service weapon.

Dozens upon dozens of law enforcement officers swarmed San Diego’s Southcrest community overnight after two Elite Gang Unit officers were shot at on Boston Avenue. One officer died, the other was seriously wounded. This is raw video from the scene, via SDNV.

Gomez took off running; Irwin – also wounded – grabbed his service gun and fired on Gomez.

Gomez was found a short time later in a ravine off South 38th Street near the scene. He was hospitalized with a gunshot wound to his upper body but survived.

San Diegans mourned SDPD Officer Jonathan DeGuzman, who was fatally shot while on duty Thursday night, by leaving cards and flowers at a memorial outside of the police department. NBC 7’s Diana Guevara reports.

De Guzman was beloved by his colleagues and family. In 2003, the officer survived a stabbing while on duty, and was awarded a Purple Heart by the department for his valor. Even after that incident, De Guzman returned to the force and his passion to protect the public never wavered.

Irwin returned to duty in June 2017, less than a year after the deadly shooting.

The shootings of the officers jolted San Diego.

Memorials and touching tributes were held across the county in De Guzman’s honor – from the planting of trees in Southcrest to Crossfit workouts held in remembrance.

In 2018, Irwin received the congressional badge of bravery.

A San Diego police officer was given one of the highest honors in law enforcement. Officer Wade Irwin received the congressional badge of bravery from Congressman Duncan Hunter Monday. In 2016, a suspect opened fire on Irwin and his partner, Officer Jonathan DeGuzman. DeGuzman died in the shooting. Irwin was shot in the neck but he was able to return...
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