The families of the two San Diego police officers who were shot Thursday night conveyed their appreciation Saturday through the mayor and police chief for the prayers and outpouring of support they have felt from the community, the nation and the world.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Chief Shelley Zimmerman spoke to reporters after visiting with Officer Wade Irwin in his hospital room, where he was recovering at the UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest. They had visited with the family, friends and neighbors of slain officer Jonathan "JD" DeGuzman earlier at his home.
The two gang officers were allegedly shot by Jesse Michael Gomez, 52, late Thursday night in Southcrest as they attempted a field stop. Gomez was in critical condition from gunshots he received during a brief gun battle, according to police.
"If you think that a message that you sent wasn't going to get to the families, it got to the families. They hear everyone's love and support, thoughts and prayers, loud and clear," Zimmerman said. "Please keep it up, it's important for our police department too, for all of our members as we continue to work through these difficult times."
Patrol personnel responding to the gang officers' emergency call for backup found them suffering from gunshot wounds to their upper bodies. DeGuzman, 43, and Irwin, 32, were rushed to hospitals. DeGuzman, a 16-year SDPD veteran, was pronounced dead later in the night.
"JD had been stabbed before and I was able to, at that time, tell his wife that he was going to be OK," Zimmerman said, as she recalled working with the officer when they were both assigned to the Mid-City Division. "And (as) I was driving over there that night, I knew I was going to have to make the notification that he was not going to be OK and he was not coming home, and nothing prepares you for that."
Faulconer was out of town with his family when the shootings occurred, but cut his plans short to be back in San Diego. He was impressed by the incredible strength demonstrated by the families of both officers during his meeting with them this morning.
"Both families wanted the chief and I to clearly say to San Diego 'thank you, thank you for your strong support,"' Faulconer said. "It is difficult, it's emotional, particularly when you have young children."
"I told both families that this city is behind you and it's going to stay behind you, anything that they need," Faulconer said.
Irwin, who has been with the department for nine years, was awake and alert this morning after undergoing surgery on Friday. He is expected to make a full recovery and is anxious to get back on the job, according to Zimmerman.
"Our resolve to go out and protect our community and serve our community is as strong as it ever has been," Zimmerman said. "Officer Irwin can't wait to get back to doing his duties and to make sure our community is safe."
"He just wants to get back out there as quickly as he can," Zimmerman said.
The reason for the attempted field stop, and whether Gomez was on foot or in a vehicle at the time, remained unclear and the investigation was ongoing, according to Zimmerman. She said the department would release more information as it becomes available.
Marcus Antonio Cassani, 41, was arrested Friday nearby on an unrelated outstanding warrant, but his involvement in the shooting remained unclear, Zimmerman said, describing him as a "potential suspect."
The San Diego Police Officers Association has established a fund for DeGuzman's family. Checks made payable to the organization, with "Officer Jonathan DeGuzman" in the memo line, can be sent to the SDPOA's offices at 8388 Vickers St., San Diego, CA 92111.