SAN DIEGO -- A San Diego police officer who was shot repeatedly by a fleeing car thief suspect early Monday, before the suspect's arrest after an hourslong standoff, may have been saved by his protective vest, his chief said.
The officer was shot by the suspect, who later holed up in apartment for about nine hours before a SWAT team stormed the building and apparently saved the man from a drug overdose, authorities said.
Police Chief David Nisleit said at an afternoon news conference that he spoke with the officer, who is expected to make a full recovery. He said the officer had multiple injuries he believes were life-threatening but that medical staff helped save him.
One of the rounds struck the officer’s vest, which the treating physician said most likely saved his life, according to Nisleit.
“He’s in good spirits, he’s sitting up, he’s talking, and that in itself is quite a miracle,” the chief said. Nisleit said the wounded officer “joked that he wants to come back to work very soon.”
The officer was in stable condition after surgery, police Lt. Adam Sharki said.
The weapon used to shoot the officer was an unregistered 9mm “ghost gun,” the police chief said.
Police did not immediately identify the officer, who has been with the department about 1 1/2 years. The officer was on patrol shortly before 12:30 a.m. Monday when he tried to stop a car that had been reported stolen, according to police.
After about an hourlong chase, the driver stopped the car in an apartment complex, got out and ran off. During a foot chase, he apparently lay in wait for the pursuing officers and opened fire on an officer who came around the apartment building, striking him several times, police said.
“Our preliminary investigation up to this point has revealed the attack on the officer was a deliberate and intentional act in which the suspect waited for the officers to come around the corner," Lt. Steve Shebloski said in an email.
The wounded officer was taken away in a police car.
The man then ran off and entered a vacant townhome where he remained for about nine hours during a standoff with SWAT officers, according to authorities. Police evacuated nearby residents and told others to shelter in place.
Repeated negotiations failed to convince the man to surrender, police said.
“After several hours where the suspect refused to exit the residence, officers saw the suspect was down on the ground," a police statement said.
The police chief said that during the standoff, the SWAT team used gas and flash-bang grenades, a robot and finally breaching explosives to get into the townhome.
They found the man suffering from an apparent drug overdose at about 10:30 a.m., the police chief said.
Authorities gave him Narcan — which is used in emergencies to reverse opioid overdoses — to “bring him back to life,” Nisleit said.
“He quickly became conscious and breathing,” the chief said.
Police identified the man as Andrew Garcia, 21, of San Diego. They said he was taken to a hospital for treatment, although his condition wasn't immediately released.
Garcia was to be booked into jail on suspicion of attempted murder of a police officer, felony evading, auto theft, reckless discharge of a firearm into an inhabited dwelling and being a felon in possession of a firearm, the police statement said.