Officials Update Conditions of Wounded Deputies, Suspect

While one was resting in good spirits, another was back in surgery Thursday

One of the two deputies shot in a violent gun battle with a suspect at a Lakeside apartment complex Tuesday was placed back in a medically induced coma, just one day after he looked to be improving.

Deputy Detective Ali Perez and Sgt. Craig Johnson were shot during a gun battle at 12701 Maple view Street. Johnson was released from the hospital early Friday, according to a department spokesperson.

Perez was breathing on his own and said a few words on Monday after being in a medically-induced coma for most of the weekend. He was later put back into the coma after experiencing severe pain and clotting in his leg.

Suspect Dan Witczak, 30, was released from the hospital Tuesday and taken to jail.

Witczak pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted murder on a peace officer and/or firefighter with two of the counts involving San Diego County Sheriff's Department Detective Ali Perez and Sgt. Craig Johnson who were wounded.

A third count involves California Highway Patrol Officer Kevin Pearlstein who was not wounded in the shooting. The charges carry special allegations for use of a weapon in the crime.

He faces 87 years to life without parole if convicted on all three charges and the special allegations attached to them.

He is accused of firing on the deputies with a high-powered rifle, according to officials. Both Perez and Johnson had arrived at Witczak's apartment to confront him about alleged pornographic images on his cell phone of his girlfriend's young daughters.

While fire was exchanged, both Perez and Johnson fell to the ground. They were pulled to safety by a SWAT officer who moved them out of the line of fire. One of the deputies who initially went to the apartment with Perez and Johnson to arrest Witczak physically shielded his partners after the shooting began, officials said in a statement.

During the standoff, Perez was struck in the stomach and shoulder at close range by high-powered 308-caliber bullets. It took nine hours of surgery to save his life. 

Perez was in surgery at Sharp Memorial Hospital again Thursday morning, according to Dave Schaller with the Deputy Sheriff’s Association.

After four hours, he was in a medically-induced coma and remained in critical condition.

Sheriff Bill Gore says Perez' most serious injury is to his abdomen. He also has a wound to his shoulder and is scheduled for surgery on his shoulder on Saturday.

On Wednesday, Perez's friends said the deputy was able to give his loved ones hope by gesturing a “thumbs up” to them at the hospital.

Sgt. Johnson was in good spirits when Schaller visited him in the hospital. He said the veteran deputy even gave him ‘grief for bringing him flowers.’ Johnson continues to improve and was sitting up and taking visitors Thursday. He apparently has joked about being upset because his pants were cut off of him.

Investigators have also been able to interview him about the gun battle.

Schaller is asking the public to keep donating blood on behalf of the two deputies. More than 500 pints have been donated on their behalf.

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