A San Diego police officer remained unconscious and in critical condition Saturday night with a bullet wound to the head as detectives arrested a suspect in the early Saturday shooting.
Officer Jerry Hartless, 24, of San Diego, underwent several hours of surgery at the UC San Diego Medical Center after being gunned down about 12:20 a.m. as he chased a group of men in an area of Southeast San Diego said by police to be known for drug dealing.
Officers from the homicide division booked Stacy Butler, 24, of 5041 Solola St., into county jail on suspicion of attempted murder. A jail spokeswoman said no bail was set because Butler was on state parole for a previous crime.
Police spokeswoman Sgt. Anne O'Dell said Hartless and his patrol partner, Johan Schneider, stopped shortly after midnight to question some men at Ocean View Boulevard and Ozark Street, a few blocks southeast of Lincoln High School and east of Interstate 805.
Officers Split Up
"When they got out of the car, the group split up and ran in opposite directions, and the two officers split up to chase each group," O'Dell said. Schneider lost track of his group and returned to the patrol car to try to find Hartless, O'Dell said.
"It was just about that time that he heard a single gunshot and found (Hartless) in the 5000 block of Manomet Street," O'Dell said. Hartless was found at the end of a cul-de-sac bordering a shallow canyon, six blocks from where he began his chase.
After Schneider called for help, dozens of police officers flooded the area to search for suspects. Euclid Avenue, a major north-south thoroughfare on the eastern side of the canyon, was closed until noon Saturday as special weapons and tactics officers (SWAT) stalked the canyon and contacted neighborhood residents for information.
Canine units from both the Police Department and the U.S. Border Patrol assisted in the effort, as well as the San Diego County sheriff's helicopter.
O'Dell said detectives detained several people for questioning Saturday morning before focusing their attention on Butler. He was arrested at a residence on nearby La Paz Street, O'Dell said, and a weapon believed connected to the shooting was found at that address.
The area where the shooting took place consists mostly of modest single-family homes, almost all with barred windows. O'Dell said police have long considered the area a problem spot because of substantial drug-related activity.
"I worked that area five years ago, and even today it's still pretty much a bad problem," O'Dell said. For a while last year, police placed walking patrols in the area and cut down on illegal activity. "But the minute the patrols (were moved) elsewhere, it comes back," she said.