SAN DIEGO — A man convicted of murdering a San Diego police officer more than five years ago was sentenced to death on Friday.
Jesse Michael Gomez was convicted of murder last year for the July 28, 2016 shooting of SDPD officer Jonathan “JD” De Guzman, 43. In addition to the murder, the jury also convicted Gomez of the attempted murder of De Guzman’s partner, Wade Irwin. , as well as one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
De Guzman, a 16-year veteran of the San Diego Police Department, died in a hospital, while Irwin was hospitalized for nearly a month with a gunshot wound to his throat.
Gomez, who testified on his own behalf, said he did not realize that the men who approached him on Acacia Grove Way that night were law enforcement and rather thought that they were gang members ready to kill him.
At Gomez’s sentencing hearing, San Diego Superior Court Judge Frederick Link adopted the jury’s death recommendation and dismissed the claim that Gomez had failed to realize that he was shooting at officers.
“For anyone to say Mr. Gomez didn’t know what was going on is ridiculous,” the judge said.
In a statement to the court and to De Guzman’s family, Gomez said he was “truly sorry” for what happened but stood by his account of how the shooting happened.
“I told the truth about what happened that night,” Gomez said.
Both Irwin and De Guzman’s wife, Jane, have spoken of the ongoing impact of the murder on them and De Guzman’s two children.
“I don’t understand how you can just take someone’s life without thinking about their family, especially when you’re also a father,” Jane De Guzman told Gomez.
She said she tried to forgive Gomez, but was struck by what she called a lack of remorse he showed while on the witness stand, and said she hoped he would receive “the punishment you deserve”.
Irwin said, “Not a day goes by that I don’t think of JD and miss him terribly.”
The officer promised Gomez that he would be present on his execution date and would watch “just like I had to watch when you executed my partner.”
Prosecutors said the two officers were patrolling Acacia Grove Way just before 11 p.m. when they spotted Gomez and another man separated and began walking along the north and south sidewalks of the street. Irwin testified that after following Gomez at slow speeds in their patrol car, he got out of the vehicle and asked Gomez something to the effect of “Do you live here?”
Gomez testified that he only recognized that a car with its fog lights on was following him, but said he found the way it was moving “quite suspicious”.
Gomez testified that after the car stopped, the headlights came on, obscuring her vision, and a man came out and asked her, “Where are you from?” According to Gomez, this issue is a common gang challenge, which, in his experience growing up in Shelltown, means a violent encounter will soon follow.
He testified that, fearing for his life, he opened fire on the “figure” of the man asking the question, as well as the car. When asked to describe what was going through his mind at the time, he replied, “I thought gang members were going to shoot me and kill me.”
Irwin said Gomez confronted him with an “angry, hateful look” then “immediately” raised his hand and shot him in the throat, before walking towards the police car and shooting several times on De Guzman.
Prosecutors argued that Gomez, who had previous run-ins with the law and was illegally carrying a gun when contacted, shot officers because he was not going to risk returning to jail.
After De Guzman was shot, Irwin drew his gun and shot the shooter, who was running east, the prosecution said.
A trail of blood from the scene of the shooting led police to an unconscious Gomez, who was taken into custody in a ravine off South 38th Street, a short distance from the scene, and hospitalized with a gunshot wound to upper body.
Copyright 2022, City News Service, Inc.
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