An Anaheim police officer was shot and severely wounded during a traffic stop before dawn Monday. Police throughout Southern California were searching for a possible weapons smuggler who may have been involved in the attack.
Veteran patrol officer Thomas "Kasey" Geary, a medal of valor winner and father of three, was recovering Monday night from a bullet wound in the face. He was listed in serious condition at the UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange.
Police dispatchers learned of the 1:50 a.m. shooting when a passing motorist spotted Geary lying beside his patrol car. After using the wounded officer's radio to alert police, the good Samaritan--who has not been identified--tore off his shirt and used it as a compress to stop the bleeding.
Investigators spent Monday trying to piece together the five minutes that followed Geary's last radio call. The officers were searching for a vehicle they believe Geary pulled over--possibly a 1984 brown Ford Explorer or Bronco.
When Geary stopped the vehicle, he was pursuing a tip that an informant had given him, according to Anaheim investigator Bruce Bottolfson, who would not disclose details about the tip. An Anaheim police spokesman said only that detectives believe the suspect may have been involved in gun running.
Within minutes of the shooting, police asked other law enforcement agencies to look out for the car. San Diego police said they were told the car was being driven by a man, possibly called "Chino," who may have been heading for Mexico. Officers in San Diego said the driver was described as having a shaved head and a goatee.
A special watch was set up at the border, and Mexican law enforcement officials were asked for help in tracking down the suspect. Traffic backed up for several miles at the San Ysidro border crossing as patrolmen checked cars heading into Mexico.
Detectives said they were struggling to figure out what happened during the attack.
"We do know that [Geary] made a car stop, and five minutes later he's been shot," Anaheim Police Sgt. Rick Martinez said. "But what happened in between, we don't know. He may have let the guy go and then got shot."
Though Geary's injuries are not life-threatening, doctors kept him on a ventilator and said he may require more surgery over the next few days.
Hospital officials said Geary, 39, suffered nerve damage, causing weakness in his left arm. The bullet tore through Geary's cheek, fractured his jaw and came to rest in his neck, narrowly missing his spinal cord.
As doctors evaluated the condition of the 18-year department veteran, Geary's friends and his wife--an Orange County sheriff's deputy--waited anxiously in the hospital's intensive care unit, clutching rosaries and embracing each other.
Geary worked as an Anaheim police reserve officer for five years before spending another 13 as a sworn officer, police said. He quickly established a reputation for courage, winning a medal of valor in recent years for saving a disabled person from a burning building.
Times staff writer Tony Perry and Times Community News correspondent Ana Beatriz Cholo contributed to this report.