San Diego

Man Accused of Killing SDPD Officer ‘JD' De Guzman, Injuring 2nd in Court

The San Diego Police Department officer who was shot and wounded before his partner was shot to death testified Monday he believed his attacker was going to execute him.

Jesse Michael Gomez, who is accused of killing SDPD Officer Jonathan "J.D." De Guzman and shooting Officer Wade Irwin on July 28, 2016, was in court Monday for the first time in more than a year.

On the witness stand Officer Irwin described the moment he and Officer De Guzman approached their alleged attacker, and detailed actions he took as he laid wounded in the street.

According to Irwin, the officer saw two men, one of whom they suspected was a gang member known as "Fuzzy," and pulled their patrol car up to him.

Irwin said that within five seconds of exiting the passenger seat, he was shot in the neck by a man he identified in court and in a photo lineup as Gomez.

“I got out of the vehicle, I took a couple of steps, I asked the male if he lived in the area, and almost immediately he raised the gun and shot me," Irwin said in response to a question by prosecutor Michael Runyon.

As he laid on the ground, Irwin said he saw Gomez approach the passenger-side door of the patrol car.

“I believed that he was going to execute me if he saw that I was still alive and I needed to stop the threat. So I took out my handgun with my right hand. I reached across my body and I began to shoot at him," Irwin said.

Irwin said he was able to fire three or four shots despite being critically injured. Defense attorneys later confirmed that Irwin actually shot nine rounds. 

Prosecutors say Gomez shot De Guzman point-blank in the car multiple times before De Guzman ever raised his service weapon.

De Guzman was struck in the right torso; the bullet punctured both lungs, severed his spine and punctured his pulmonary artery. He suffered four additional bullet wounds.

Irwin said Gomez then fled the scene on foot.

Under cross-examination by Gomez's defense attorney Troy Britt, Irwin said he never had time to announce himself as a San Diego police officer before the first shot was fired.

"You didn’t announce that you were San Diego Police Department, right?" Britt said.

"No, I didn’t have time," Irwin replied

"When you got out of the car, though, you had enough time to ask where he was from?" Britt asked

"No, I asked him if he lived in the area," Irwin said.

So when you got out of your car, you didn’t identify yourself as a San Diego Police officer, right?" Britt asked.

"I didn’t have time," Irwin said.

"No, because the first question you asked was 'Do you live around here?'" Britt said.

"Correct," Irwin said.

Irwin said he was hospitalized for 23-days and was off duty for 8-months. He said he still suffers from injuries that include a collapsed lung, a paralyzed right diaphragm, a partially-paralyzed vocal cord, nerve damage, and numbness in his right earlobe and right side of his face.

Irwin said he never heard De Guzman say anything after the shooting. "I could only hear moaning in pain," he said.

De Guzman, 43, was a 16-year veteran of the SDPD. He left behind a wife, a son and a daughter.

Gomez's defense attorneys moved to restrict audio and video recordings by the media during the trial. Their motion was denied. 

Lawyers also brought up a nine-month gap in between the 2016 shooting during a pedestrian stop in Southcrest and the search of a park nearby by state investigators.

In March 2017, investigators from the SDPD Homicide Unit were at a nearby park following up on leads and possible evidence that may be related to the ongoing investigation of the shooting, Deputy District Attorney Michael Runyon said at the time. 

Gomez' lawyers said they weren’t given a reason for the search but prosecutors argued documentation wasn’t necessary for the prelinary hearing.

At that point, the Judge got visibly upset with prosecutors and asked for a closed door meeting with prosecutors. The outcome of that closed-door session was not known. 

Gomez last appeared in December 2017 when the San Diego County District Attorney's Office announced they would seek the death penalty if he was convicted on a charge of murder, attempted murder and a special circumstance allegation of murder of a police officer.

It was unclear why there has been such a long gap in the case. His preliminary hearing was first scheduled for Feb. 5. 

Court records show Gomez has an extensive criminal history: he has previous convictions for carrying a concealed firearm, carrying a firearm while under the influence of methamphetamine and being a convicted felon while having a firearm. He also has a 1983 joyriding conviction.

De Guzman has been honored by his hometown of Chula Vista since his killing; a freeway bridge and a U.S. Post Office were named in his honor. 

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