06/27/2003

San Diego Officer Killed in Encounter With Fleeing Suspect

Officer Down: Terry Bennet - [San Diego, California]

Sign-On San Diego News Services

SAN DIEGO -- A stolen truck suspect pulled a quick U-turn and ran head-on into a pursuing motorcycle officer on an Encanto-area road Thursday, fatally injuring him, authorities said.

The patrolman - the second San Diego-area law enforcement agent to die on the job this month - was struck about 12:20 p.m. at Kenwood Street and Iona Drive. He died in a hospital a short time later.

The alleged thief, who was arrested in a nearby neighborhood a few minutes later, appeared to have deliberately smashed the flatbed into the officer's motorcycle, police said.

"We believe, at this point, that that act was intentional," San Diego police Capt. Mike McCulloch told reporters.

A woman who lives nearby heard a "big boom, like something hit hard."

"And then we went running out there to go see what happened, and the officer was (lying) out on the sidewalk, and all you saw was papers and, you know, debris and everything flying all over the place," she told KFMB-TV.

The patrolman was unconscious, the resident said.

"He was just out - nothing," she added. "And one of the ladies tried to call to him, but there was no response."

About 12:30 p.m., police arrested the suspect as he tried to escape on foot after ditching the truck near Madera and 69th streets, about a mile northeast of the crash site, a dispatcher said.

No names were released.

Earlier this month, Oceanside Police Department rookie Tony Zeppetella, 27, was gunned down during traffic stop.

A man who police say is a gang member with a long criminal history has pleaded innocent to a charge of murder in the June 13 incident, and to a special-circumstance allegation of killing a peace officer during the course of his duties.
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