Thursday, October 28, 2010
The city is mourning the death of San Diego Police Officer Christopher Wilson, 50, who was shot in the line of duty Wednesday night. Wilson was a 17-year veteran of the department.
SAN DIEGO The city is mourning the death of San Diego Police Officer Christopher Wilson, 50, who was shot in the line of duty Wednesday night.
Wilson, a 17-year veteran of the department, and five other officers, were attempting to make contact with a man inside an apartment in the southeast San Diego community of Skyline, when a man allegedly opened fired on the officers.
Wilson was shot and later died at Scripps Mercy Hospital. Police said this is the first time since 1991 that a San Diego city police officer has been shot and killed while on duty.
“In San Diego we have the finest collection of police officers in America," said San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, who fought back tears as he spoke during a news conference.
"They prove this fact over and over every single day, and I couldn’t be prouder of all of them,” Sanders said. “I join with them today in mourning the loss of such an incredibly brave man.”
Sanders served on the San Diego Police Department for 26 years and was police chief from 1993 to 1999. He was joined by current Police Chief William Lansdowne.
Lansdowne said he got a call around 11 p.m. Wednesday letting him know Wilson had been shot. He said 80 police officers showed up at the hospital to show their support for Wilson. When he went to the hospital, doctors told Lansdowne that Wilson was not going to live and that his family should be brought to see him one last time.
Lansdowne said he often gets asked what he says to families when he has to tell them their loved one has been killed.
“You don’t have to say anything. Because when you show up as Chief of Police in uniform at 3 a.m. they know exactly what happened,” Lansdowne said.
The chief said Wilson’s family was able to spend about half an hour with him before he passed away. He's survived by two teenage children.
Wilson joined the San Diego Police Department after retiring from the U.S. Navy as a Lieutenant. He spent all of his 17 years with the department serving in the Southeastern Division.
San Diego Councilman Tony Young praised Wilson’s dedication to the area. “He could have gone anywhere, to any other police division in the city. But he chose to stay in my community and train new officers on how to serve our community with dignity and respect,” Young said.
Wilson was a field training officer. His partner had just finished his police academy training and was undergoing on-the-job training. Police said the investigation is still in its beginning stages but it appears protocol was followed. The San Diego Police Officers Association is accepting donations to memorial fund for Wilson’s family.
The standoff started at 10:45 p.m. Wednesday, and ended at about 6:50 a.m. Thursday when police officers went into the second-story apartment and found a man and woman dead, Lt. Andra Brown said.
At least one of them was believed to have opened fire on officers the night before, she said, adding that it was not immediately clear whether the two committed suicide or died during the shootout. They were not immediately identified.
Three other people in the apartment were detained earlier and more than 50 people were evacuated from surrounding apartments during the standoff, she said.
The confrontation began when federal probation officers and U.S. marshals went to the apartment to check on a man who was on probation for assault with a deadly weapon, Brown said.
Acting Assistant Police Chief Jim Collins said someone inside opened the door, then slammed it in their faces.
The officers kicked in the door and took a man into custody, then called in San Diego police to help search for other people inside the apartment.
A tenant, Ryan Davis, estimated there were six to 12 shots fired from what sounded like handguns and a shotgun.
"There was a hail of bullets," Brown said, but she declined to provide an estimate.
Three officers, including the fatally wounded officer, returned fire, police said.
Two officers fled the apartment, then went back inside to retrieve their wounded comrade, Brown said. He died at about 3 a.m.
A police dog named Monty also was wounded in the shooting but is expected to survive, Brown said.
Dozens of San Diego police, county sheriff's deputies and federal officers responded to the officers' call for help and a special weapons team cordoned off the apartment.
Collins said the first man taken into custody lived in the apartment.
Associated Press contributed to the information in this report.