2 deputies, child molestation suspect injured in Lakeside shootout
Suspect accused of performing lewd acts with girl
12:39 PM, Sep 25, 2012
7:03 PM, Sep 25, 2012
LAKESIDE, Calif. -
A nearly 15-minute gun battle between sheriff's deputies and an alleged child molester at an apartment complex near El Capitan High School ended with two deputies and the suspect wounded Tuesday.
The gunfire at Ashwood and Mapleview streets in Lakeside erupted about 12:15 p.m., according to sheriff's Capt. Duncan Fraser.
Medics took the two wounded deputies to Sharp Memorial Hospital, while the suspect was taken to Scripps Mercy Hospital.
Sources identified the deputies as Sgt. Craig T. Johnson and Det. Ali Perez. The suspected shooter was identified by his girlfriend as Daniel Witczak.
Sources told 10News reporter Itica Milanes that Johnson was out of surgery and in stable condition. Perez remained in surgery as of 6 p.m. He suffered gunshot wounds to the shoulder and stomach, according to sources.
Sources said the deputies' injuries are not considered life-threatening.
"We're all cautiously optimistic … we're hopeful of a full recovery," said San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore.
As of 6:15 p.m., the condition of the suspected shooter was unknown.
The suspect, identified as 30-year-old Dan Witczak, allegedly opened fire on the sheriff's sergeant and detective with a high-powered rifle when they arrived at his rental residence to question him about his alleged molestation of one his live-in girlfriend's two young daughters, who are not related to him.
More deputies rushed to the scene and immediately engaged the suspect in a shootout. Witczak surrendered after suffering at least one gunshot wound, according to Fraser. The exchange of gunfire lasted almost a quarter of an hour, he told news crews.
A woman named Stephanie, who identified herself as the suspect's girlfriend, told reporters the events that led to the gunfire began about 7:30 a.m., when she allegedly found cell-phone photos of Witczak -- an out-of-work auto mechanic -- performing lewd acts with her 6-year-old daughter.
"This morning at 7:30, I found on his SD card pictures of him molesting my two children; pictures and videos," Stephanie told 10News.
She said she left their apartment and called the Sheriff's Department to report the apparent molestation. 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 her boyfriend when the detective and sergeant arrived at the couple's apartment and, a short time later, shots rang out.
"When I heard the guns firing, I was angry and I was mad and told him to kill himself," Stephanie said.
She said Witczak then told her he had shot himself, and she heard someone say, "Officers down."
After the gunshots ended, the woman listened as her boyfriend announced that he was surrendering, she said.
Stephanie said Witczak had been depressed about mechanic's work being slow and needing money. She angrily questioned him as the deputies closed in.
"He was going to sell pictures of my kids, supposedly for $50,000 on the Internet or to somebody, that's what he said," said Stephanie.
She talked to the girls, ages six and eight, about the pictures, but said they were unaware.
"I guess the good thing is they're not traumatized," said Stephanie. "I just can't believe he would do that to my babies."
Lakeside resident Aaryn Spring was driving home when the deputies stopped her car.
"We were wondering what we should do when we heard the gunshots right over here and we saw a cop drop," said Spring. "And they were working on him on the corner until the paramedics showed up. I'm still trying to take it all in, watching a cop get shot is probably one of the worst things I've ever seen in my life."
At the same time, Nidal Altamimi, another Lakeside resident, heard the gunshots and walked towards the apartments.
"We heard gunshots. It's not like the regular pistols. It's like one right after the other," she said.
Altamimi saw deputies surrounding a man who was standing outside the apartments. She said it was something out of a Hollywood movie.
"They were behind, ducking down behind the cars here," she said, pretending to duck behind an invisible car.
El Capitan High School and Lakeshore Elementary School were placed on a precautionary lockdown due to the gunfire and subsequent investigation. Both lockdowns were lifted at about 1:20 p.m.
"We just got out of fifth period and the alarms rang and the helicopters were circling up above and we were hearing the sirens," said El Capitan High School student Corky Pellegrino. "And then they told us to get in the classroom and that we need to get under the tables and it was just chaotic."
Detectives were canvassing the area and interviewing "numerous" witnesses, the captain told reporters during a late-afternoon briefing at the Lakeside Rodeo grounds.
"We'll be out here all night," he added.
The American Red Cross set up a rest area with refreshments at nearby Lindo Lake County Park for residents displaced from their apartments because of the gun battle and follow-up investigation.
10News learned Witczak has a criminal past in his home state of Wisconsin.
He was charged with obstructing an officer and charged with disorderly conduct twice. He also faced charges for damaging property.
In civil court, 10News found that Witczak had several financial judgments and liens on his record.
He also holds several hunting licenses in Wisconsin.