A police officer fatally shot a domestic-violence suspect at a Mira Mesa residential complex Monday when the man allegedly tried to grab the lawman's gun during a struggle.
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Two officers went to the home of 31-year-old Victor Ortega in the 8800 block of Flanders Drive about 7:45 a.m. on a report that he had punched and kicked his wife, causing her to bleed from her mouth, according to San Diego police.
The 27-year-old woman met the patrol personnel on a lawn in front of her house and told them her husband had run away to the north, SDPD homicide Lt. Kevin Rooney said.
The officers split up to search for Ortega, and one of them found him a short time later in an alley just south of Hillery Drive. Seeing the policeman, Ortega ran off to the east.
The officer radioed that he was in a foot pursuit and broadcast a description of Ortega, who fled to a parking area east of the 10500 block of Caminito Flores.
Ortega ran into a breezeway, slamming a swinging wooden door behind him. The officer kicked the gate open and was immediately confronted by Ortega, according to Rooney.
"The officer tried to control the suspect, who grabbed the officer and wrestled with him as they bounced off the walls of the breezeway," Rooney said.
The officer was able to force Ortega to the ground and hold him face-down while struggling to handcuff him.
After getting Ortega's arms behind his back and cuffing the left hand, the officer noticed that his backup handgun had fallen out of its holster and was lying on the ground next to the man's head. Ortega reached for, and touched, the pistol before the officer was able to push it away, Rooney said.
The officer then got on one knee and pulled his primary gun from its holster. At that point, Ortega turned, and as he raised himself, grabbed for the primary weapon, Rooney said. From a distance of about a foot, the officer shot Ortega.
The officer radioed for assistance and began CPR prior to the arrival of medics, who took over the lifesaving attempt before pronouncing Ortega dead at the scene shortly after 8 a.m.
Flanders Drive resident Jason Crisostomo, 38, told reporters that just prior to the gunfire outside his home, he heard a man shout at someone to "get on the ground." Crisostomo said a man responded with "are you kidding me?"
Three shots then rang out, Crisostomo said.
Rooney declined to disclose how many rounds the officer fired
Ortega's sister, Michelle Hooper, yelled "Bunch of murderers!" as she ran toward the yellow crime scene tape near her brother's body.
Hooper and several other family members were seen hugging each other. Occasional loud sobs were heard as they clustered together in tears and disbelief.
"My brother just got shot and killed by San Diego police," Hooper said through tears. "I thought that the police were supposed to use Tasers or bean bag guns, but they shot him in the head."
Hooper and Ortega's younger sister, Melina Alexander, said they doubt the police version of what happened.
"They shot an innocent man today and he's leaving behind two young kids and a wife," said Alexander, who called her brother her best friend.
"Victor was a kind-hearted individual," Hooper told reporters. "He was a family man. He lived for his kids. He did the right thing. He went to work every day. He just lived for his wife and his kids and his family."
When asked about the domestic violence accusations against her brother, Alexander said, "It was a domestic violence call but they wound up shooting him in his head, so how smart does that sound?"
"Not smart at all," Hooper added.
The officer involved in the shooting was identified as three-year veteran Jonathan McCarthy, 29. He is assigned to the SDPD Northeastern Division's patrol unit. He will serve desk duty until investigations in the case are complete, as is routine in instances of officer-involved shootings.
It generally takes homicide detectives at least a month to complete their probes into police use of lethal force, Rooney said. They then forward their finding to the district attorney, who rules on whether the shooting in question was legally justified.
The shooting took place just a half-mile from Mira Mesa High School, but the school was not locked down.
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