Motorcycle ride to benefit sheriff's deputy wounded in Lakeside shootout

Detective Ali Perez making slow, steady progress

SAN DIEGO - Hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts are expected to take part Saturday in a coast-to-mountains benefit ride for a sheriff's detective wounded in a gunbattle at an East County apartment complex.

The fundraiser for Ali Perez, an 18-year veteran with the sheriff's child abuse unit, will set out from Sweetwater Harley-Davidson in National City at 10 a.m.

Many of the estimated 300-350 riders will be law enforcement, firefighting or military personnel, according to Dave Schaller, president of the Deputy Sheriffs' Association of San Diego County.

Money raised by the event, which will include a post-ride raffle and refreshments, will help the wounded detective and his family meet non-medical expenses they are facing due to reduced income and other factors, according to Schaller.

Perez and sheriff's Sgt. Craig Johnson came under high-powered rifle fire early on the afternoon of Sept. 25 in front of a rental residence in the 12700 block of Mapleview Street in Lakeside, where they had gone to question a man accused of sexually assaulting his live-in girlfriend's 6-year-old daughter.

Out-of-work auto mechanic Daniel Robert Witczak, 30, allegedly shot Johnson and Perez at his front door and then got into a nearly 15-minute shootout with other deputies before suffering several bullet wounds himself and surrendering. He since has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder of peace officers.

Medics took the wounded lawmen to Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego. Johnson was released three days later and went home to continue recuperating, but Perez had to undergo multiple surgeries and other procedures and remains at the Kearny Mesa trauma center.

Sheriff's officials opened a donation account and have held a series of fundraisers to help Perez and his family make ends meet. As of last week, the contributions had reached roughly $50,000, Schaller said.

Perez is making slow but steady progress, according to Schaller, who said the detective likely will have to remain in the hospital for about another month.

Perez "would love to come back to work" if he recovers sufficiently, Schaller said.

Contributions to the DSA donation account may be made at any San Diego County Credit Union branch or at the agency's office in Poway. Credit-card donations also may be phoned in at (858) 486-9009, ext. 100.

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