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Cop-Shooting Suspect Is Arrested

A two-day manhunt nets the alleged gang member in Corona. A witness says he also saw a passenger in the getaway vehicle. Doctors take the Anaheim officer off ventilator.

July 12, 2000|H.G. REZA and ANA BEATRIZ CHOLO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Police arrested a suspect late Tuesday in the wounding of an Anaheim patrolman during a traffic stop early Monday.

Anaheim Police Sgt. Bill Jefferson said the man, Juan Carlos Alcarez, 24, was arrested "outside a public establishment" on an outstanding warrant for robbery and was being questioned by detectives at the Anaheim Police Department.

"I just hope this brings a quick close to this case," Jefferson said. "I'm thrilled."

He would give no further details.

Earlier, Anaheim Police Sgt. Greg Palmer said the man, whom authorities identified as a gang member known as "Chino," was apprehended in Corona about 8:15 p.m. No further details were available.

The arrest capped two days of an intensive manhunt by Anaheim officers who, with help from other departments, combed Orange and Riverside counties seeking the suspect.

As a swarm of officers staked out parts of Santa Ana on Tuesday, authorities remained tight-lipped about the man who they believe shot Officer Thomas "Kasey" Geary once in the face at 1:50 a.m. Monday.

At UCI Medical Center in Orange, doctors on Tuesday removed a ventilator that had helped the 39-year-old officer breathe.

The injury is not life-threatening, though the bullet fractured Geary's jaw and tore through his neck, with lead fragments coming within half an inch of major blood vessels and the spinal cord, hospital spokeswoman Kim Pine said.

Pine said doctors decided to leave the bullet fragments in Geary's neck, fearing that trying to remove them would do more harm than good.

As family members continued their vigil by Geary's bedside, numerous Anaheim and Santa Ana officers, including a special weapons team, gathered at a fire station near downtown Santa Ana, ready to respond if the suspect was spotted by plainclothes crews watching for him at several locations.

Carlos Ortiz, who aided the wounded officer and summoned help, said he saw a second person silhouetted in the passenger seat of the sport-utility vehicle driven by the gunman.

Anaheim police spokesman Sgt. Rick Martinez would not confirm whether investigators were seeking more than one suspect.

Police said Geary was shot when he stopped a vehicle on a tip that the driver had drugs or illegal weapons. He had followed the brown sport-utility vehicle from an Anaheim restaurant. Martinez said Geary called in a description and license number of the vehicle but no description of the driver, and police dispatchers did not hear from the officer again. The shooting happened at the Ball Road onramp to the southbound Orange Freeway. Officials would not say how "Chino" became the suspect but revealed that they alerted San Diego police to be on the lookout for the vehicle and the suspect in case he tried to flee to Mexico. The description sent to other police agencies indicated that the suspect is a Latino man with a shaved head and goatee, last seen wearing a white button-down shirt with dark pants.

Ortiz, a Long Beach park ranger who was driving on the freeway, spotted Geary on the ground, bleeding from a bullet wound to the left cheek. Ortiz administered first aid and summoned officers on Geary's radio.

On Tuesday, police played part of the audio tape recording Ortiz's frantic call for help:

"Officer down. Possibly shot. One of your officers are down. This is going to be the entrance to the freeway on the 55. I'm going to check your officer out."

In the confusion, Ortiz misidentified the location as the Costa Mesa Freeway.

Ortiz said in an interview with The Times that he saw Geary's patrol car with overhead lights on following the suspect's truck, which was eastbound on Ball Road. Geary followed the truck for about four blocks before it stopped on the freeway onramp, with the police cruiser parked behind it.

Ortiz said he continued driving on the overpass but sensed that something was wrong with the police stop. He said he made an illegal U-turn and came on the scene just as the sport-utility vehicle was speeding off.

Ortiz, who has been a park ranger for 14 years, saw Geary sprawled on the ground. Ortiz said he climbed inside the patrol car to radio for help. He returned to the wounded officer and asked him if there was a first-aid kit in the car, but Geary failed to respond.

Ortiz said he then took off his shirt and began applying pressure on Geary's wound, trying to stop the bleeding. It was then that Geary spoke his only words: "Just stop the bleeding."

Ortiz said two or three vehicles drove by while he was assisting Geary, but the drivers failed to respond to his cries for help. Two Anaheim officers arrived at the scene and called an ambulance.

When Geary recovers, Ortiz said, he wants to meet with the officer. He said he does not consider himself a hero but conceded that Geary "would have probably died if no one was there."

Geary, a medal of valor winner for rescuing a man from a burning structure, has worked for the Anaheim Police Department for 18 years. His wife, Catherine, is an Orange County sheriff's deputy. Family friends said Tuesday the couple have a daughter, Alexis, 4, and are expecting their second child. Geary also has two children, Chad, 16, and Heidi, 17, from a previous marriage.

*

Times staff writers Jaimee Rose, David Haldane and Willoughby Mariano contributed to this report.

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