SAN DIEGO - A felon who led police on a dangerous vehicle pursuit through the streets of City Heights, then shot an officer who followed him on foot into a dark drainage tunnel, was found guilty Thursday of premeditated attempted murder and other charges.
After deliberating over two days, a jury convicted Ignacio Canela of the Oct. 24, 2013, shooting that seriously injured Officer Timothy Bell, who had been on the department for five years.
Jurors found Canela guilty of attempted murder and 13 other counts, including drug and weapons charges and evading police with reckless driving.
Canela, 33, faces more than 44 years to life in prison when he is sentenced June 22 by Judge Frederic Link.
Deputy District Attorney Michael Runyon told jurors that Canela -- who was wanted on drug charges and for failure to appear in court -- led officers on a chase from a home on Wightman Street to a dead-end in the 3000 block of Central Avenue, where he ditched his car and took off running into a canyon.
Bell pursued Canela and followed him into the drainage tunnel, where he tried to use his Taser on the suspect. They got into a physical confrontation, and Canela told the officer, "I give up," according to Runyon.
Bell tried to push Canela away and the defendant starting shooting, striking the officer four times, including once in the left arm, the prosecutor said. The officer was able to escape the tunnel as Canela fired at him, Runyon said.
Canela ran through the tunnel and was arrested about a half-hour later. A firearm was later recovered near where Canela was taken into custody.
Canela testified that Bell tried to pistol-whip him with his own gun, but the gun went off and the officer fell to the ground. The defendant said he saw a gun in Bell's left hand, so he picked up his gun off the ground and fired toward the officer's left arm.
"I'm not trying to shoot him in the head," Canela testified.
Canela said he fired a couple more rounds toward the officer, and Bell took off running out of the tunnel.
"In my mind, he was safe," the defendant testified.
Canela said he turned his gun on himself and contemplated suicide, but didn't pull the trigger.
"I thought I was (expletive)," Canela said.
Canela said he shot the officer in self-defense.
"I was trying to save my life," Canela told his attorney, Jane Kinsey. "I wasn't trying to hurt him. He had a weapon."
Runyon said Canela also ran from police in 2004 and had a modified knife in his back pocket when he was arrested.
When asked by an officer why he ran, Canela responded, "I don't like pigs," Runyon told the jury.
Canela also fled from police in a stolen SUV in December 2007, crashed into a parked car and took off running before being arrested, according to the prosecutor, who said officers recovered a loaded revolver from Canela in that incident.
"Kill or be killed" was Canela's state of mind when confronted by the officer, Kinsey said. She said her client was so "bent" on getting away that he jumped out of his car at the entrance to the canyon while it was still moving.
Canela has been to prison four times for vandalism, evading, burglary and drug convictions.