Ignacio Canela pleads not guilty in shooting of San Diego police Officer Tim Bell

Canela faces 40 years to life if convicted

SAN DIEGO - A man who allegedly opened fire on a San Diego officer while trying to evade arrest by fleeing through a drainage tunnel in City Heights pleaded not guilty Monday to premeditated attempted murder of a police officer and other charges.

Ignacio Canela, 31, was ordered held on $1.5 million bail and faces 40 years to life in prison if convicted.

Deputy District Attorney Michael Runyon said San Diego police officers spotted Canela -- who was wanted on felony warrants -- coming out of a residence on Wightman Street last Thursday afternoon and saw him get into a silver Dodge SUV with a female companion.

Canela allegedly led officers on a nine-minute high-speed chase down city streets, driving close to a children's park and nearly hitting a pedestrian, Runyon said.

The officers tailed the vehicle onto nearby SR-15, waited until a police helicopter arrived over the area and tried to pull over Canela as he exited the freeway onto Adams Avenue.

Canela eventually reached a dead end in the 3000 block of Central Avenue. There, he and the woman jumped out of the SUV, which continued rolling and went down a brushy slope, Runyon said.

Officers chased Canela through a culvert and into the drainage tunnel, he said.

San Diego police Officer Tim Bell, a five-year department veteran, got into a physical altercation with Canela and tried to subdue the suspect with a stun gun, Runyon said.

Bell told investigators that Canela pulled out a semiautomatic firearm and fired repeatedly at him, hitting him four times -- once in the lower chest above the waist, once in the left arm and twice in the leg-buttocks area, according to Runyon.

The officer was unable to return fire, telling investigators that he tried to draw his service weapon but couldn't raise his left arm, the prosecutor said.

Bell's fellow officers saw him staggering out of the drainage tunnel and began life-saving measures, eventually carrying Bell through the canyon for transport to a hospital.

Bell's bulletproof vest likely prevented him from suffering considerably more serious -- even fatal -- injuries, authorities said. Bell is expected to make a full recovery, according to SDPD Chief William Lansdowne.

Canela was arrested a short time after the shooting in a nearby backyard.

A gun believed used in the attack was found in another backyard. It was reported stolen in a burglary a month earlier, Runyon said. He said seven shell casings from the same gun were located in the drainage tunnel.

In addition to attempted murder, Canela is charged with possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of ammunition by a felon, receiving stolen property and felony evading.

Canela has been to prison several times on burglary, assault and other charges dating back to 2004, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case.

Judge David Szumowski set a status conference for Nov. 4 and a preliminary hearing for Nov. 8.

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