The two San Diego Police Department (SDPD) officers who were shot Thursday night during a traffic stop in Southcrest are both husbands and fathers, deeply dedicated to serving and protecting, SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman said.
Officer Jonathan De Guzman, 43, was rushed in a squad car to Scripps Mercy Hospital in Hillcrest. The father of two did not survive. He was a 16-year veteran of the SDPD and a family man, according to Zimmerman.
On Friday, Heritage Elementary School in Chula Vista issued a statement to the parents of students, informing them of De Guzman's death. The school stated that De Guzman was a "quality, involved parent" that many other parents knew and interacted with.
“In full uniform, kids would flock around him. He was an active parent, an amazing father. Chula Vista is mourning for him,” Chula Vista Elementary School District Superintendant Francisco Escobedo told NBC 7
Escobedo says De Guzman was a role model for kids and had been active in several school clubs and loved the children.
"We have a family that doesn't have a father, doesn't have a husband," Escobedo said.
He told NBC 7 that the community was shocked to hear the news of De Guzman's passing.
"We all feel it. We felt the loss and it's very tragic," he said.
Escobedo says De Guzman was a tue hero.
"[We're missing] a man who first, was great father, great teacher, and obviously an amazing police officer. We're missing a real American hero."
De Guzman was awarded the police department’s Purple Heart in 2003 after being stabbed by a suspect he stopped for speeding.
“I can tell you he is a loving, caring husband, father, talked about his family all the time,” SDPD Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said of De Guzman in a news conference Friday morning. “I personally worked with him when I was a lieutenant at Mid-City Division. I know him. This is gut-wrenching. He cared. He came to work every single day just wanting to make a positive difference in his community.”
Zimmerman called his killing "senseless" and said the only thing the officers were trying to do was protect the community.
The second officer wounded in the shooting, Wade Irwin, 32, survived and was taken to UC Medical Center, also in Hillcrest, where he underwent surgery.
Although he is in serious condition, he is expected to recover, according to Zimmerman. Irwin and his wife, who has not left his side, have a 19-month-old baby. By Friday afternoon Zimmerman said Irwin was resting comfortably and was awake. He has been informed of his partner's death, according to Zimmerman. Irwin has been with the department for nine years.
"It's a long haul until he makes a full recovery, but the good news is that he is going to survive, and he is going to recover," Zimmerman said.
The chief said Irwin has not yet been interviewed about the deadly shooting. She said the officers were both wearing body cameras and added, "there is video evidence."
Both De Guzman and Irwin were officers in the department’s gang suppression unit. De Guzman had been in the unit for a couple of years, while Irwin joined in June.
The officers were conducting a pedestrian or traffic stop around 11 p.m. Thursday in the 3700 block of Acacia Grove Way, near Boston Avenue, when they were shot. They called for cover, and dozens upon dozens of law enforcement officers swarmed the area.
Two men were in custody by Friday afternoon. Jessie Michael Gomez, 52, was arrested for murder and attempted murder, and Marcus Antonio Cassani, 41, a “potential suspect,” was arrested for an outstanding warrant. It is unclear if Cassini was involved in the shooting.
Funeral service arrangements are pending. The San Diego Police Officers Association has established a fund for Officer De Guzman’s family. Donations can be mailed to:
San Diego Police Officers Association
8388 Vickers Street, San Diego, CA 92111
Checks can be made payable to the San Diego Police Officers Association (SDPOA). Please write “Officer Jonathan De Guzman” in the memo line. All donations will go directly to the family. The SDPOA is also accepting online donations through their website.
Check back for updates on this developing story.