Man accused of shooting 2 sheriff's deputies to stand trial: Deputy testifies Jesus spoke to him
Dan Witczak also faces child molestation charges
Last Updated: 266 days ago
EL CAJON, Calif. - A man accused of wounding two sheriff's deputies, who went to his Lakeside apartment to investigate allegations that he abused his girlfriend's daughters, was ordered Thursday to stand trial on attempted murder and child molestation charges.
Daniel Robert Witczak, 30, who was also wounded during a 15-minute gun battle with officers, is accused of molesting the girls, ages 6 and 8, two days before the Sept. 25 shootout that left sheriff's Detective Ali Perez and Sgt. Craig Johnson seriously wounded. Both are recovering.
Witczak faces 190 years to life in prison if convicted of three counts of attempted murder and eight child molest charges, Deputy District Attorney Damon Mosler said.
Thursday's preliminary hearing was delayed for nearly 20 minutes after the defendant refused to enter the courtroom.
The judge called in extra deputies to help bring Witczak inside. Once in the courtroom, the defendant was shackled to his seat because deputies said he was found with weapons twice while in jail.
Perez testified that he, Johnson and other deputies went to an apartment in the 12700 block of Mapleview Street and he kicked in the door when the defendant didn't answer.
"I heard a pop, my ears were ringing, my vision went out a little bit -- like static on the TV -- and when I gathered my senses, I was on the ground," Perez said.
He said he was just inside the apartment, lying on his back, and bleeding from a significant wound to his upper arm.
He saw that Johnson had suffered a wound to his arm and heard him give the radio call for "officer down," Perez said.
The deputy said he unloaded half of his 15-round magazine as a crouching Witczak peered out from his position in a hallway. The defendant came out again and shot him in the chest with a round that penetrated his body armor, he said.
After emptying his magazine, Perez said he lost his weapon and Witczak closed the door, trapping him inside.
"I'm in a fight for my life and right now I'm losing," Perez said.
He said he was coming to terms with his own death as he lay on the floor when a "miracle" happened.
"My Lord and savior was sitting there right between me and the defendant. He was sitting in a chair and writing notes," Perez said.
Jesus handed him a note that told him to bless Witczak, according to Perez. He said that while he regretted leaving his wife and children behind, he was comfortable with dying since Jesus was with him, so he complied.
"So I said, 'God bless you, brother,'" Perez said. He said he repeated the blessing at some point.
Witczak asked him if he wanted to go outside and join his friends and tried to open the door for him, but retreated from a hail of bullets, Perez testified. The defendant then laid down beside him and said, "Let's go together," according to the deputy.
Perez said he feared he was about to be executed, but the defendant said he couldn't do it and returned to the hallway. The deputy said he took that as a cue to leave, so he slid outside and was rescued by responding law enforcement officers.
Perez estimated that he has undergone between 20 and 40 surgeries since the shootings and barely has use of his left arm. A shattered rib had to be removed, and he also suffered damage to his lung and other organs.
Johnson said he was struck in the arm just as he saw Perez on the ground. When he realized the bullet had also traveled into the side of his chest, he and another deputy retreated to a nearby apartment to wait until reinforcements arrived, he said.
According to the suspect's girlfriend, the events that led to the gunfire began about 7:30 a.m., when she found cell-phone photos and videos of Witczak, an out-of-work auto mechanic, allegedly engaging in sex acts with her daughters.
She left their apartment to call the sheriff's department. Later in the morning, during a call being monitored by investigators, the suspect allegedly admitted to the crimes, claiming he had received an offer of $50,000 to post the pornographic images online.
The woman said she was still on the phone with Witczak when the detective and sergeant arrived at the couple's apartment and, a short time later, shots rang out.
The attempted murder counts involved Perez, Johnson and a third law enforcement officer, who was fired upon but not hit. The charges include allegations of discharging a firearm and causing great bodily injury.
Witczak also faces six counts of lewd acts upon a child under the age of 10, and one count each of intercourse with a child under 10 and oral copulation with a child under 10. The charges include allegations of multiple victims.
Judge William McGrath scheduled a hearing for April 4, when the defendant will receive a trial date.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. City News Service contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.