A San Diego police officer seriously injured in the line-of-duty during a July 28 Southcrest-area shootout has been released from the hospital.
Officer Wade Irwin, 32, was released from the hospital on Saturday night, after recovering from a gunshot wound to the neck, according to Kevin McQuillen, the president of Fraternal Order of Police San Diego Lodge #10, who is close to Irwin.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to be able to share this news,” McQuillen said, describing how Irwin’s wife has been by his side for more than three weeks during his tough and long recovery. Irwin also has a 19-month-old daughter.
“I understand that his daughter ran up to him, and he was able to pick her up in his arms,” McQuillen said.
McQuillen said it has not been disclosed where Irwin will continue his recovery, and that he and his family would like privacy as he continues to heal.
“He wants to thank the community for their continued support and well wishes. It means the world to him,” McQuillen said.
Irwin comes from a family of police officers, and has been with the San Diego Police Department for nine years. He served in the department’s elite gang suppression unit since June.
Described as “courageous and heroic,” by his colleagues, Irwin approached a parolee in Southcrest who was acting suspiciously last month.
Concerned about the community’s safety, Irwin asked the man if he was from the neighborhood.
Jesse Michael Gomez, 52, responded by holding up a gun and opening fire on Irwin, shooting him in the neck and then killing his partner, Officer Jonathan DeGuzman, according to the District Attorney’s office.
Despite being gravely injured, Irwin was able to remain lucid enough to turn on his body camera; fire several shots at Gomez; call for back-up and give a suspect description to first responders that eventually led investigators to Gomez. Gomez was located and arrested in a nearby canyon with a gunshot wound in his upper body.
San Diego Police Department Sergeant Johnny Immarino described Irwin’s actions that night like this:
"I want to tell you how proud I am of you and I know how proud J.D. was of you that night ... After getting shot, you had the ability to keep your composure, return fire, striking the suspect and put out the 1199. Your heroic actions and warrior instincts directly resulted in officers being able to arrest the suspect. You stayed in the fight in true GSD (gang suppression) fashion."
McQuillen and other sources told NBC7 Irwin’s condition continues to improve and that he is “doing great.”
“He wants to get back to being a police officer,” McQuillen said.
Gomez was arraigned on a first-degree murder charge and a felon with a firearm charge with a special circumstance that carries the potential for the death penalty.
He pleaded not guilty through public defender Troy Britt; bail was set at $5 million.
The decision on whether the death penalty will be sought will not be made until after the preliminary hearings, according to a San Diego County District Attorney spokesperson.
Court records show Gomez has an extensive criminal history: he has previous convictions of 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.
He is set to appear in court next on Sept. 1.