SANTA ANA — A police officer shot a 15-year-old assault suspect Saturday after the youth hopped out of a station wagon and tried to flee from officers, police said.
The youth, a suspect in a drive-by shooting, was in stable condition at Western Medical Center-Santa Ana Saturday night with a bullet wound to the back of his left shoulder, Santa Ana Police Lt. Robert Helton said.
Helton said the shooting occurred about 12:45 p.m. after the teen-ager and two other youths led officers on a two-block car chase after a drive-by shooting. The officer shot the young man, who had been a passenger in the Suburban station wagon, at East Warner and South Standard avenues.
There was no indication that the youth had fired at the police officer, or was carrying a gun at the time, although officers found two guns in the car, Helton said.
The officer involved, a 26-year department veteran, had not been interviewed yet Saturday, and investigators said they were unsure why he shot at the youth.
"The officer may have thought he saw a weapon, or the man may have reached for his waistband, we just don't know," Helton said.
Santa Ana police did not release the juvenile's name or the name of the patrol officer.
The shooting is the second officer-involved shooting in Orange County in a week. On Thursday, Anaheim police shot and killed a suspected carjacker in La Palma.
Officers trace the beginnings of Saturday's confrontation to suspected gang violence earlier in the day, on a street about a mile away.
Several young men in a brown and beige 1982 Chevrolet Suburban station wagon chased a lone driver in a white Cadillac northbound on Halladay Street and started shooting at him after they turned west onto the 800 block of East Berkeley Street shortly after noon, Helton said.
The Cadillac's driver--17-year-old Jose L. Monje, of Santa Ana--was unharmed, Helton said. Bullet casings from guns of different calibers were found at the scene.
Patrol officers were alerted to be on the lookout for the station wagon.
About 35 minutes later, the veteran officer--who often patrols the neighborhood--spotted the large station wagon heading south on Standard, toward Warner and gave chase.
As another police car sped east on Warner and pulled a quick U-turn at the intersection, the veteran officer pulled in behind the station wagon, which stopped at the corner.
The 15-year-old jumped out of a back passenger door and tried to flee west on Warner across a lawn, Helton said.
"The Santa Ana officer fired at least two rounds, one which struck him in the left shoulder," Helton said.
Two others in the station wagon, ages 19 and 16, were arrested without incident on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon.
The 19-year-old, Irineo Ruiz of Santa Ana, was booked at the Santa Ana Detention Facility and held on $50,000 bail. The 16-year-old, whose name was not released because he is a juvenile, was taken to Juvenile Hall.
Investigators found two semiautomatic handguns in the station wagon--one in the front seat, another in the back, Helton said.
Hugo Vega, 11, was watching MTV in his home when he and his family heard two shots. "When I came out, the police officers were around a man on the ground," said Hugo, a McFadden Intermediate School student.
Neighbors said shots are routinely heard around the area, part of the Delhi neighborhood.
A second bullet fired by the officer lodged between a window screen and a window frame of a small house in the 2300 block of South Evergreen Street.
Tina Camarillo, a 50-year resident of the house, said she heard a noise when the bullet hit the home, but was unsure what it was. She became frightened when police came to pull the bullet from the window frame.
"If I were sitting over there," Camarillo said, pointing into her living room, "and it had been a little lower, it could have been bad."
Camarillo said police told her to call city officials, who would repair the damage at no charge. "Maybe they (police) will be more careful next time," she said.
Helton said that standard Police Department procedure in the use of deadly force by an officer dictates that an officer may shoot a fleeing person suspected of a violent crime, or anyone who is endangering the life of a police officer or other person. He said that an assault with a deadly weapon satisfies the definition of a violent crime.
Investigators will not know whether the officer shot the teen-ager in the back, Helton said, until doctors determine the angle of the bullet's entry into the youth's shoulder.