Officers Acted Fast During Shootout with Crime Spree Suspect: SDPD

The officers were fired at 14 times, but still managed to prove their courage under fire

One week after the officer-involved shooting of an armed suspect wanted for a string of violent crimes across the county, the San Diego Police Department has released the names of the brave officers who faced off with the suspect.

On Halloween night, former firefighter Philip Hernandez, 40, was killed during a late-night shootout with police in Barrio Logan.

In the days leading up to the shootout, Hernandez was wanted by police for allegedly committing a series of violent crimes across San Diego over a three-day period that included two shootings, three robberies, carjackings and the burning of three vehicles.

One of those crimes was the “execution-style” shooting of off-duty SDPD officer Les Stewart, who was shot in the head at an ATM in Escondido. Another was the shooting of a man on Upas Street in Hillcrest.

Throughout the crime spree, Hernandez was accompanied by alleged accomplice Cindy Garcia, 18, with whom he had a romantic relationship. Garcia was taken into custody following the shootout and is currently being held on multiple charges at Las Colinas.

According to the SDPD, when Hernandez exited his white van in Barrio Logan on Oct. 31 to confront police, he exited the vehicle holding a rifle and began shooting at officers.

The three officers that returned fire and ultimately killed Hernandez in the shootout include 18-year veteran Sgt. Scott Bartolomei, 6-year veteran Officer Nicholas Link and 5-year veteran Officer Alex Hesselgesser.

On Thursday, NBC 7 gathered exclusive details of the officers who heroically took down Hernandez and proved their courage under fire.

Sound from police scanners on the night of the shootout recorded Sgt. Bartolomei hot on the heels of the white van occupied by Hernandez and Garcia.

The 18-year vet and former SWAT team member took charge and directed officers to converge on the suspects. Two units that Bartolomei directed on police scanners were driven by Officer Link and Officer Hesselgesser.

As they zoned in on Hernandez, the three officers were pinned behind their cars. Hernandez then fired at least 14 shots at the officers, who were still somehow able to successfully return gunfire in the midst of all the chaos.

“They kept their wits about them. They relied on their training, their tactics [and the] good leadership at the scene,” Lt. Andra Brown told NBC 7.

Most importantly, the officers stayed calm and immediately fired back at Hernandez, stopping his attack. This also helped police safely secure his accomplice, Garcia.

Lt. Brown said the officers knew that when they had finally found Hernandez, his violent rampage had to end – once and for all.

"The officers knew he was violent, they knew he was armed and they knew he was very motivated to do these things," added Lt. Brown.

As of Wednesday night, all three officers are on paid administrative duty as the investigation continues, which is standard protocol anytime an officer is involved in a shooting.

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