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Doctors Upgrade Condition of Officer Hurt in Shooting

November 15, 2003|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Doctors upgraded from critical to serious Friday the condition of San Diego Police Officer Dan Walters, shot Wednesday night during an altercation between other officers and a suspect in a domestic violence incident.

Walters, 37, a former catcher for the San Diego Padres, was shot in the neck after he stopped to talk to a driver who was being questioned by other officers. In an exchange of gunfire with those officers, the driver, Jaime Contreras, 26, of National City was killed.

After being shot by Contreras, Walters was struck by a passing car, officials said. Taken to UC San Diego Medical Center, he had emergency surgery and was reportedly conscious and talking to family members on Friday, although still unable to move his arms or legs.

Walters played for the Houston Astros' farm system from 1984 to 1988 before being traded to the Padres. After playing with Padre farm teams, he earned a spot on the major league roster in 1992 and 1993. His career batting average was .234.

"He had a great work ethic," said Padre manager Bruce Bochy, a coach during Walters' seasons with the team. "He had great perseverance and did everything he could to sharpen his talent and work his way to the big club."

A back injury during spring training in 1996 cut short his baseball career. Walters, who is unmarried, joined the Police Department in 1999. He spent months in rehabilitation after back surgery. "He knew the dangers of being an officer," said his cousin, Russell Sutherland, a police officer in Houston. "I remember him asking me whether I had ever been shot at. I told him, 'Yes, it's part of the job.' "

The shooting incident remains under investigation.

Initial reports said that Contreras' wife and two children were in a car next to his truck and that she and Contreras had been arguing.

"I think it's clear that he had the gun because he planned to shoot his wife because she was threatening to take the kids away," Police Chief Bill Lansdowne said of Contreras. "Dan just stopped to help. It's tragic."

The shooting was the eighth this year involving San Diego police. In five cases, civilians were killed.

"Dan was always tough," Sutherland said. "Sports teaches you to overcome and adapt. That's what Dan is going to need to do now more than ever."

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