Prosecutor: Man tried to kill officer in tunnel

Posted at 6:41 AM, May 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-11 19:36:55-04

 A man wanted on warrants led police on a dangerous vehicle pursuit through the streets of City Heights, then tried to kill an officer who followed him on foot into a dark drainage tunnel, a prosecutor said Wednesday, but a defense attorney said her client just wanted to get away and shot the policeman in self-defense.

Ignacio Canela, 33, is charged with premeditated attempted murder, evading police and other counts stemming from the Oct. 24, 2013, shooting that seriously injured San Diego police officer Timothy Bell.

Deputy District Attorney Michael Runyon said in his opening statement that Canela shot Bell four times as they struggled in the tunnel.

"He (Canela) was trying to kill him," the prosecutor said, telling jurors the lives of the defendant and officer intersected with "tragic consequences, almost lethal consequences."

Runyon said 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 alleged. 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, the prosecutor said.    

Runyon told jurors that 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.

Defense attorney Jane Kinsey told the jury that Canela shot Bell in self- defense.

"Kill or be killed" was Canela's state of mind when confronted by the officer, Kinsey said. He said his 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.     Kinsey said Bell chased Canela with no back-up, and once the officer fired his Taser three times, Canela fired his gun in self-defense.

Canela -- who has been to prison several times on burglary and other charges dating back to 2004 -- faces 40 years to life in prison if convicted.