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.
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.
Trial of Jesse Gomez, So Far
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.
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.
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.
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.