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Public Safety

Loved Ones Describe Impact Of San Diego Police Officer Killed In Line Of Duty

The Rev. Jared Moten of Ebenezer Baptist Church, left, and the Rev. Shane Harris of the National Action Network attend a peace vigil to honor slain San Diego police Officer Jonathan De Guzman at South 35th Street and Boston Avenue, July 29, 2016.
Tarryn Mento
The Rev. Jared Moten of Ebenezer Baptist Church, left, and the Rev. Shane Harris of the National Action Network attend a peace vigil to honor slain San Diego police Officer Jonathan De Guzman at South 35th Street and Boston Avenue, July 29, 2016.

In a downtown San Diego courtroom Monday, loved ones and fellow police officers shared memories and described the impact of the loss of Jonathan "J.D." De Guzman, a San Diego police officer shot and killed more than five years ago.

The testimony from De Guzman's family, friends and other San Diego officers came in the murder trial of Jesse Michael Gomez, 60, who was convicted last week of killing De Guzman, as well as the attempted murder of his partner, Wade Irwin.

After Gomez shot the lawmen around 11 p.m. July 28, 2016, on Acacia Grove Way, De Guzman, a 16-year veteran of the San Diego Police Department, died shortly afterwards at a hospital, while Irwin was hospitalized for nearly a month for a gunshot to the throat.

In convicting Gomez of murder, the jury also found true a special- circumstance allegation of killing a police officer, opening him to a possible death sentence in the next phase of the trial. Jurors now weigh whether the effects of the killing on the victim's loved ones, as well as the circumstances that defined Gomez's upbringing and life, warrant recommending a death sentence or a lifetime of incarceration.

De Guzman's widow and two children were among those who spoke Monday.

RELATED: Man Convicted In Killing Of San Diego Police Officer, Possible Death Sentence Looms

Jane De Guzman described the last conversation she had with her husband of more than 15 years, a phone call made about an hour before he was shot.

"I love you. I'll be home soon," he told her. Just hours later, though Jane hoped the news she'd heard about two officers being shot did not involve her husband, she received a knock at her front door from then-Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, informing her that Jonathan was killed.

Despite struggling in the five years since her husband's death, Jane said she's focused on "being strong, because I have two kids I have to protect."

De Guzman's son, Jonathan Jr., was a high school senior at the time of his father's death, while De Guzman's daughter, Amira, was just weeks away from turning 11.

Jonathan Jr., who goes by "Jed," called his father "the most influential figure in my life" and said his dad supported his interests and endeavors even when he was uncertain whether he should pursue them.

Despite always having an interest in film, Jed decided he would study medicine in college because it was more practical. However, his father insisted he go to film school, telling him to "do something you love, because I wasn't able to do it growing up."

Jed said, "He taught me to be confident and embrace who I was."

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Amira, like many others who spoke Monday, said her father was a charismatic person who always knew how to cheer others up.

She described herself as a "quiet kid," but wanted to take after her dad's ability to light up a room and engage with everyone he encountered.

"I want to be that person who's there for people when they need it," she said, while also describing her father as the "person I loved most." His loss was "like a part of me was taken away," she said.

Wade Irwin also took the stand and said the shooting was "the most terrifying thing I've ever been through."

Even five years later, he said "it still feels like it's yesterday. It feels like I've been living a nightmare" and every day, he remembers "the helpless feeling I had, that I couldn't help J.D."

His physical recovery included eight months of rehab, procedures and surgery after leaving the hospital, during which Irwin said he was almost constantly in pain.

Though he was able to go back to work less than a year later, Irwin said he was plagued by anxiety, and left "wondering if it was going to happen again." His daughters once told him, "Daddy, I don't want you to go to work. I don't want you to get shot again."

Now a homicide detective, Irwin said, "Every day I go to work, I try to keep J.D.'s memory alive."

The prosecution's portion of the penalty phase concluded Monday afternoon. The defense will begin its case Tuesday morning and is expected to last into next week.