‘You Can Feel the Effect': Witnesses Reflect on Shooting of San Diego Officers

Two officers with the San Diego Police Department's Elite Gang Unit were shot during a traffic stop on Boston Avenue Thursday night

Residents of San Diego’s Southcrest community were plagued by uneasiness Friday after two San Diego Police Department (SDPD) officers were shot during a late-night traffic stop, one of them killed by the gunfire.

“[This] is a little scary. You can feel the effect,” Southcrest resident Virginia Williams told NBC 7. “When it’s far away, you feel the effect. When it’s right in your backyard – it touches you deeply. It’s almost as if it could be one of your own family members. My heart goes out to all the fallen officers’ families and all the gun violence on both ends.”

SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman said two officers with the department’s Elite Gang Unit -- Officer Jonathan "JD" De Guzman, 43, and Officer Wade Irwin, 32 -- were conducting a traffic stop in the 3700 block of Acacia Grove Way near Boston Avenue when, suddenly, they were fired upon. The officers stopped their car and immediately called for cover.

De Guzman – a husband and father of two – was rushed to Scripps Mercy Hospital in Hillcrest in an SDPD patrol car, but succumbed to his injuries. Irwin as seriously wounded and underwent surgery early Friday morning at UC Medical Center. He’s also a husband and father. Zimmerman said he is expected to survive.

Following the shooting, dozens of law enforcement officers swarmed Southcrest. A manhunt was launched for the suspects, with police helicopters and patrol cars scouring the neighborhood. One suspect, later identified to be 52-year old Jesse Michael Gomez, was arrested in a ravine in the 1300 block of 38th Street.

The search pressed on for additional possible suspects, police lights blaring.

Southcrest resident Francisco Navaloez told NBC 7 he couldn’t believe how many officers lined the streets. He had just gotten out of the shower when he heard the police helicopter overheard and saw the bright lights of patrol cars outside his home. He walked outside to get a better view.

“I kid you not, about 50 cop cars rolled up,” Navaloez recounted.

He said he also saw at least 20 police officers, service weapons in hand, running down the street.

“I never experienced anything like this, where it feels like the military kind of rolled up. The police just kind of swarmed the streets,” said Navaloez. “I feel safe knowing the cops showed up that fast but, you know, I feel a little uneasy.”

He said officers from various agencies were in the neighborhood. Navaloez said he has a three-year-old daughter and this incident makes him anxious for the safety of his family and makes him want to move out of the neighborhood.

NBC 7 San Diego viewer Raul Meza, who lives near Interstate 5, said he also saw a multitude of police cars racing down the freeway as officials descended on Southcrest. There were so many police vehicles, he lost count.

“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” Meza said on NBC 7’s Facebook page.

Another San Diegan, Melissa Sumera, also commented on NBC 7’s Facebook page about the “continuous sirens” she heard around 11 p.m. as police made their way to Boston Avenue to provide back-up for their fellow officers.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer released a statement Friday morning about the tragedy that struck the SDPD. He said San Diego is grieving with the police department.

His statement, in part, read: “Violence against the men and women who wear the badge is violence against us all. I ask all San Diegans and all people across our nation to join together in support of our officers who courageously protect our communities. We need them and they need us.”

Meanwhile, flowers and candles were left behind at SDPD headquarters in downtown San Diego, at a plaque dedicated to fallen officers. At one point, a San Diego resident stopped to pray at the plaque.

The City of San Diego said all flags at city facilities would fly at half-staff as a tribute to the fallen and injured officer.

As of 8:10 a.m. Friday, SWAT officers had surrounded a home at 41st and Epsilon streets in Shelltown, in search for another possible suspect. That standoff ended several hours later. Soon, a second standoff ensued at 41st and Delta streets.

Marcus Antonio Cassani was identified as the second potential suspect in connection to the shooting. He was arrested on the 4000 block of Epsilon Street for an outstanding warrant, SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman confirmed Friday during a press conference.

It's unclear if Cassani was involved in the shooting.

Sources told NBC News the suspects involved in this shooting are believed to be part of a San Diego gang. At this point in the investigation, there is no indication that the SDPD officers were specifically targeted or ambushed, as in recent incidents in Dallas and Baton Rouge, which collectively claimed the lives of eight officers in those cities.

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