SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A man who shot two San Diego police officers, one of whom died, was sentenced to death Friday.
Jesse Michael Gomez, 58, was convicted last year of murder and a special circumstance allegation of killing a police officer for the July 28, 2016, shooting of SDPD Officer Jonathan "J.D." De Guzman, 43. The jury recommended Gomez be sentenced to death for De Guzman's slaying and also convicted him of the attempted murder of De Guzman's partner, Wade Irwin, as well as a count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
De Guzman, a 16-year veteran of the San Diego Police Department, died at a hospital, while Irwin was hospitalized for nearly a month for a gunshot to the throat.
Gomez, who testified on his own behalf, said he did not realize the men who approached him on Acacia Grove Way that night were law enforcement and instead thought they were gang members poised to kill him.
At Gomez's sentencing hearing, San Diego Superior Court Judge Frederick Link adopted the jury's recommendation of death and rejected the contention that Gomez did not realize he was shooting at officers.
"For anyone to say Mr. Gomez didn't know what was going on is ridiculous," said the judge.
In a statement to the court and De Guzman's family, Gomez said he was "truly sorry" for what happened, but stood by his account of how the shooting occurred.
"I told the truth on what happened that night," Gomez said.
Irwin and De Guzman's wife, Jane, both spoke of the ongoing impact the murder had on them, as well as De Guzman's two children.
"I don't understand how you can just take someone's life without thinking of their family, especially when you are a father too," Jane De Guzman told Gomez.
She said she has tried to forgive Gomez, but was struck by what she called a lack of remorse he displayed while on the witness stand, and said she hoped he received "the punishment you deserve."
Irwin said, "There's not a day that goes by when I don't think about J.D. and I miss him terribly."
The officer promised Gomez that he would be present on the date of his execution, and that he would watch "just as I had to watch when you executed my partner."
Prosecutors said the two officers were patrolling Acacia Grove Way just before 11 p.m. when they spotted Gomez and another man split up and start walking along the north and south sidewalks of the street. Irwin testified that after they followed Gomez at slow speeds in their patrol car, he got out of the vehicle and asked Gomez something to the effect of "Do you live around here?"
Gomez testified that he only recognized that a car with its fog lights on was following him, but said he found the manner in which it was traveling "pretty suspicious."
Gomez testified that after the car stopped, the headlights turned on, obscuring his vision, and a man got out and asked him, "Where are you from?" According to Gomez, that question is a common gang challenge, which in his experience growing up in Shelltown means a violent encounter is soon to follow.
He testified that, fearing for his life, he opened fire on the "silhouette" of the man who posed the question, as well as the car. When asked to describe what was running through his mind at the time, he said, "I thought gang members were going to shoot and kill me."
Irwin testified that Gomez faced him with an "angry, hateful look on his face," then "immediately" raised his hand and shot him in the throat, before walking toward the police car and firing multiple times on De Guzman.
Prosecutors argued that Gomez, who had prior run-ins with the law and was illegally carrying a firearm when he was contacted, shot the officers because he was not going to risk going to jail again.
After De Guzman was shot, Irwin drew his gun and fired on the shooter, who was running eastbound, according to the prosecution.
A blood trail from the shooting scene led police to an unconscious Gomez, who was taken into custody in a ravine off South 38th Street, a short distance from the scene, and hospitalized with a gunshot wound to his upper body.