Suspect in San Diego police officer shooting Ignacio Canela held on 13 charges

Officer Tim Bell released from hospital

SAN DIEGO - A known gang member was back in custody Friday facing an array of charges for allegedly opening fire on a San Diego policeman, seriously wounding him, while trying to evade arrest by fleeing through a storm drain underneath a City Heights freeway interchange.

Ignacio Canela, 31, was arrested about 3:45 p.m. Thursday, less than 15 minutes after allegedly shooting SDPD Officer Tim Bell four times in the culvert at the intersection of Interstate 805 and state Route 15.

Bell, a five-year member of the department, underwent emergency surgery and was expected to fully recover, SDPD Chief William Lansdowne told reporters. Close relatives of the wounded officer, including his wife and mother, were with him at the hospital, Lansdowne said. Interim San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria visited with the officer and his family at the hospital Thursday evening.

The 29-year-old married father of three was released from Scripps Memorial Hospital Friday and will continue receiving medical care at home, the chief said during an afternoon briefing in front of downtown police headquarters.

"He is positive and upbeat," Lansdowne said. "He is ready to go back to work. I think it's going to be a little longer (time off) than Tim would like it to be."

The events that led to the shooting began about 2:15 p.m. Thursday, when officers put Canela under surveillance at a home in the 3700 block of Wightman Street, Capt. Terry McManus said.

After about an hour, Canela, who was the subject of two felony arrest warrants, walked out of the house with a female companion, and they got into a silver Dodge SUV with him behind the wheel and drove off, he 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, the captain said.

The suspect refused to yield and sped off to the south over various city streets before reaching 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.

Officers chased Canela through a nearby canyon and into the dark drainage channel. Bell, the first to enter, promptly came under fire, suffering arm, leg and abdominal wounds, and was not able to return fire, according to police.

Police said Bell was fired at seven times and was struck four times.

Bell's bulletproof vest likely prevented him from suffering considerably more serious -- even fatal -- injury, McManus said.

Marc Stein, owner of Ace Uniform, showed 10News a vest similar to the one worn by Bell that is made primarily of Kevlar. He said the wearer still feels the pressure, maybe even the pain of being shot.

"Like a catcher's mitt; it catches it and stops it," said Stein. "He would not have survived ... the vest is key. It's their survival mechanism."

The wounded officer's colleagues rendered first aid, including application of a tourniquet, then carried him to a police vehicle and rushed him to the Hillcrest trauma center.

Officers arrested Canela in the 2100 block of Haller Street, on the opposite side of the two freeways from the site of the shooting. A loaded pistol was found ditched in a nearby residential yard. Investigators later determined that the weapon had been stolen during a burglary in City Heights last month, McManus said.

10News cameras were there as Canela was taken into SDPD headquarters Thursday evening. Canela, who allegedly has gang affiliations, was booked into San Diego Central Jail on suspicion of attempted murder, evading arrest, being a felon in possession of a firearm and other counts. He was held without bail pending arraignment, scheduled for Monday afternoon.

The unidentified woman who had been along for the ride during the road chase stayed around for a while after it ended, but then disappeared while officers were busy aiding Bell and searching for the shooter, McManus said.

"She was either picked up or walked away," the captain told reporters, adding that it was unclear whether she could face any criminal charges in the case.

Canela has a "lengthy" and violent criminal history, according to McManus, who declined to elaborate.

The California Highway Patrol closed both freeways in the area shortly after the shooting, causing traffic to backup for miles. Most of the affected lanes were reopened by early evening, according to the CHP.

Canela's extensive criminal history dates back to at least 2003, 10News learned.

In the most recent case, in August 2013, Canela was charged with two felonies related to possession of a controlled substance, a misdemeanor for possession of narcotics paraphernalia, and possession of burglary tools.

Court documents showed he failed to appear at a hearing in September, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

A 2011 criminal case out of the South Bay showed that Canela pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy. He was sentenced to one year, but received credit for time served.

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