Calif. officer in grave condition after gun battle
31-year-old officer was rushed to the hospital early Friday with at least two gunshot wounds to the upper torso
By Joseph Serna and Matt Hansen
Los Angeles Times
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — The San Bernardino police training officer critically wounded during a gun battle early Friday was identified as Gabriel Garcia and is the son of a captain on the force, officials said.
Garcia suffered at least two gunshots to the upper torso after a member of a group he stopped on foot in a residential neighborhood opened fire at about 2 a.m. The shooter, who was killed by Garcia's rookie partner, was identified by police as 38-year-old Alex Alvarado.
Police say Alvarado opened fire as the two officers approached him and five other people at about 2 a.m. in the 1900 block of Garner Avenue.
A second man from the group, Jonathan Contreras, 20, has been arrested on suspicion of possession of an assault weapon. Police said Garcia was shot with a sawed-off AK-47-style assault rifle found at the scene.
It was unclear what prompted officers to stop and approach the group, but Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said it was a "self-initiated effort."
They "obviously appeared suspicious to them in some way, shape or form," Burguan said. "I don't know exactly, at this point, why they were making that contact."
Police said the group had been drinking at a bar nearby and were walking home.
When the officers approached, one man ran off and Alvarado opened fire, Burguan said. Alvarado shot Garcia twice in the upper torso before the officer's trainee, who has not been identified, returned fire in what became a "protracted gun battle" that ended with Alvarado's death.
The four other people in the group — two men and two women — have been detained by police for questioning.
Garcia remained in "very critical condition" midday Friday after undergoing surgery at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, police said, adding that his family has been at his side since the shooting.
In a statement, Burguan called Garcia "an outstanding officer, a great team member and a great man."
"His calming and compassionate nature has earned multiple letters from citizens thanking him for his assistance with crimes such as armed robberies and carjackings," Burguan added. "He is exemplary in every sense of the word."
Earlier in the day, he also praised the rookie officer's response, given that he had just graduated from the academy two months ago.
"For all intents and purposes, he did a pretty remarkable job," he said.
In an interview with Spanish broadcast news stations, a woman who identified herself as Alvarado's wife said she was "devastated" over the officer's injuries and her husband's death. Police also took her in for questioning.
Residents on the street told the Los Angeles Times that the neighborhood has been quiet in recent years, though none were willing to give their last names out of fear of retaliation. One resident said Alvarado was known around the neighborhood and worked as a mechanic and welder who helped neighbors with their cars.
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