A bystander was struck by a bullet as a Harbor Police officer traded gunfire with a man in front of the San Diego Convention Center Monday night, San Diego Police said.
The bystander was walking on an adjacent sidewalk near the convention center when they were hit in the buttocks by a bullet, according to SDPD Captain Richard Freedman. A protective glasses case in the bystander's back pocket prevented the bullet from penetrating their body, Freedman said.
The incident stemmed from a traffic stop on Harbor Drive in downtown San Diego moments before. Freedman said a Harbor PD officer pulled a man over for allegedly running a stop sign on Harbor Drive just after 7 p.m.
Once the officer made contact with the driver, he noticed the driver showed signs of impairment, Freedman said.
The driver followed the officer's order to step out of his vehicle, and as he exited he reached for a weapon and started shooting, according to Freedman.
“The two engaged in a gun battle for a few seconds," the police captain explained.
The officer was able to retreat and take cover without being hit. The driver, who was not shot, put his hands up and surrendered to officers.
A group of officers, some of them with weapons drawn and joined by a K-9 unit, approached the man as he laid on the sidewalk in front of the convention center and took him into custody.
Investigators said on Tuesday morning that they had recovered a firearm at the scene and identified the suspect as a 29-year-old man and the officer as a three-year veteran of the San Diego Harbor Police.
At least a dozen police cars, lights flashing, blocked Harbor Drive after the incident. The vehicles at one point stretched the full length of the convention center.
The bystander was taken to the hospital and was believed to have been released before 10:30 p.m., which was when Freedman briefed local media outlets.
Freedman said the officer and other bystanders were lucky not to have been injured by gunfire.
The San Diego Police Department's Homicide Unit is investigating the incident.
'Are Those Gunshots?' Witnesses Describe Hearing Shots in Downtown San Diego
Chula Vista resident Ana Morales was having dinner with friends at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar on K Street Monday night. They had gone out to get burgers after work and were dining outside when, suddenly, they heard a bunch of popping sounds.
Morales said the pops came in a quick burst, then paused.
“Then it popped again, then stopped,” she told NBC 7.
When a third round of pops followed, Morales said she and her friends looked around at other diners and wondered if they should take cover under their table.
“I thought they were gunshots, but I wasn’t sure,” she said.
Morales said a nearby diner who told her he was in the military said the sounds sounded like gunshots, for sure.
Soon, they heard police sirens moving into the area.
“We just hoped that everyone was OK,” Morales said.
A San Diegan named Christal was also eating dinner at Fleming’s when she also heard a series of popping noises and pausing. She told NBC 7 it sounded like three to five shots in a series of three sets.
“We’re like, ‘OK, are those gunshots? What are those?’” Christal recounted. “It sounded pretty close, too.”
Christal said diners were alarmed but also unsure if the popping noises were gunfire. She described hearing the sounds as if they were getting further away by the second.
The witness said the incident left her a little bit jittery.
“It’s something that you don’t hear every day,” Christal told NBC 7. “I didn’t think it would happen today; we were just having dinner.”
She said she would be sure to hug her mom a little tighter when she got home from her outing.