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Pursuit suspect shot by deputies in Del Mar Heights

Police lights
Police lights file. U-T file photo

A pursuit suspect was shot and injured Friday night, July 20, in Del Mar Heights after telling 911 dispatchers during the chase that he had a handgun and wanted to commit “suicide by cop,” police said.

The high-speed chase ended a little after 9 p.m. when two sheriff’s deputies shot the man after his car became stuck in a marsh east of Torrey Pines State Beach, San Diego police Capt. Mike Hastings said.

The deputies, who’d likely been informed that the suspect claimed to be armed, “believed something was pointed at them” by the suspect, Hastings said. That’s when they opened fire.

The man was struck in the upper torso and taken to a hospital. Police did not list a condition but said he was stable.

The events that led to the shooting began about 8:30 p.m. Friday when a deputy tried to pull over a suspected DUI driver in a 2005 Audi near Linda Vista Drive and Poinsettia Avenue in Vista, police said.

But instead of pulling over, the Audi’s driver sped away, leading deputies onto westbound state Route 78, and then southbound Interstate 5 in a chase that reached speeds of 100 mph, Hastings said.

At some point during this part of the pursuit, the Audi’s driver called 911 and said he was armed with a 9 mm handgun and had a woman in the car, Hastings said.

At Leucadia Boulevard, the Audi exited the freeway and a woman got out, Hastings said. Some California Highway Patrol officers and deputies detained the passenger, while the Audi got back on southbound I-5.

The car got off at Carmel Valley Road and headed west toward Torrey Pines State Beach when the driver veered into the marshland of Los Penasquitos Lagoon, between Portofino Drive and Via Grimaldi, Hastings said.

At least two deputies entered the lagoon on foot until they came upon the Audi stuck in the marsh. That’s where they encountered the suspect, who continued to advance on the deputies despite their commands to stop, according to police homicide Lt. Anthony Dupree.

“The suspect kept his right hand behind his back and at one point quickly pointed something at the deputies while taking a shooting stance,” Dupree said. Two deputies opened fire.

As of just after midnight Saturday, July 21, no suspect weapon had been found, the captain said. Investigators were likely going to wait until sunrise Saturday to search for a possible weapon and other evidence. A press release issued after 7 a.m. did not mention whether a weapon had been found.

“This is a very tough area to do this investigation, because … investigators are going to have to get in that marshland and have to walk a very long area to try to find all the evidence that’s in there,” Hastings said.

No deputies or officers were injured in the incident. The names of the deputies and the suspect were not immediately released.

The deputies involved have served with the Sheriff’s Department for five years and two years.

A long line of police lights at the scene was visible from northbound I-5 late Friday night.

Amy Jackson, who lives on Carmel Valley Road, was home reading around 9 p.m. when she heard a vehicle race by. She then heard the sirens of the law enforcement vehicles in close pursuit and looked out a window to see them speeding past.

Jackson went outside, but soon retreated when she heard “four or five gunshots.”

“The perpetrator’s car must have drove into an embankment, and then shortly after that, there were the shots,” Jackson said from the driveway of her residence roughly 100 yards from where the pursuit ended.

San Diego police, sheriff’s deputies and CHP officers remained at the scene past midnight, and San Diego homicide detectives were expected to be there until well past sunrise Saturday.

Because the shooting occurred in San Diego Police Department jurisdiction, Hastings’ homicide unit is responsible for the investigation. The unit typically investigates all officer-involved shootings in the city, even when the shootings are non-fatal.

--Alex Riggins is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune

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