San Diego

Police Officials Identify Suspect Who Opened Fire on 2 Officers in College Area

Court records show the suspect struggled with mental illness and had a history of violence

The San Diego Police Department identified the suspect who opened fire on two officers Saturday night at an apartment complex in the College Area.

Police say Joe Darwish, 28, was dressed in body armor when he fired shots at two officers responding to a violent disturbance call at his residence at Tuscany Place on the 4800 block of Rolando Court just after 11 p.m. Saturday.

Responding officers smelled something burning coming from inside the apartment and called firefighters for assistance. After knocking on the door and getting no response, officers and firefighters they the apartment and were immediately met by gunfire, according to SDPD.

The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department said it would not comment on the incident while the investigation is going on. No firefighters were reported injured.

SWAT officers then responded to the scene to find Darwish dead. Investigators were working to determine if he was killed by police gunfire or by a self-inflicted gunshot.

SDPD identified the two wounded officers Monday as Francisco Roman, a 3-year veteran, and Dan Bihum, who has been with the department for 18 years.

Roman remains in the hospital in "serious but stable condition" and Bihum was released from the hospital Monday, SDPD said.

San Diego police Chief David Nisleit said Sunday both officers were expected to make full recoveries.

"I'm blessed that none of our officers died," he said. "We have one who is very seriously injured, but it looks like he'll make a full recovery so I'm very thankful for that."

Court records show Darwish struggled with mental illness and had a history of violence, including a 2017 incident when he violently attacked a female neighbor. The woman suffered a brain injury and later filed a restraining order.

Multiple neighbors at the Tuscany Place complex told NBC 7 Darwish had a reputation for causing disturbances at the building.

"That's the thing. I never saw him, thankfully. I just heard him. He'd shake the whole building," one neighbor said.

A clerk at the 7 Eleven that Darwish frequented said he felt uneasy every time he came into his store, and would have to keep an eye on him at all times.

The apartment complex where the shooting took place was still a crime scene Monday afternoon.

Some police tape was taken down in the morning hours, and residents living closest to where the shooting occurred weren't allowed back into their homes until around 3:30 p.m.

Residents whose units were behind caution tape required a police escort.

In the moments after the shooting, frightened residents scrambled for safety.

Olivia Steadman recorded a video as she scrambled for safety. She said officers woke her up and forced her to evacuate. Her video shows her and others running through hallways and down staircases with armed police guiding the way.

"They were knocking on everybody's door and I think they were kicking down doors, too. If it was locked I think they kicked it down," witness Cheeba Cheigh said.

A GoFundMe page was started to help Officer Roman's family while he recovers from his injuries.

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