ESCONDIDO CA Oct 31 2012 — An off-duty San Diego police officer was shot in the head at a credit union ATM in Escondido shortly after noon on Monday, in what authorities are investigating as a possible crime spree that started in San Diego.
The 57-year-old officer was hospitalized after a bullet grazed his skull, but police officials said he was expected to survive.
A stocky man wearing a black baseball cap with the word “police” on it shot the officer in the back of his head about 12:15 p.m. at the San Diego County Credit Union on South Escondido Boulevard near Felicita Avenue, Escondido police said.
Cash was stolen from the officer, and possibly his wallet and cellphone, said police Lt. Craig Carter. The officer was using his personal car and not in uniform when the incident happened, but it was not known if he was wearing anything that identified him as law enforcement, Carter said.
Police in Escondido and San Diego are investigating whether the gunman was involved in two other incidents Monday — an armed robbery in the morning of a man in Mission Valley and an armed carjacking in the afternoon on College Grove Way in southeastern San Diego. In both incidents, he pretended to be a police officer.
Escondido police described the ATM shooting suspect as a Latino man in his mid-40s, about 5 feet 7 inches tall, wearing black pants, a black long-sleeved button-up shirt and the black baseball cap.
The San Diego police officer had just used the ATM machine at a kiosk when the gunman confronted and shot him, Escondido police said.
After the shooting, witnesses saw the gunman running south on Escondido Boulevard towardFelicita Avenue.
Carter said the wounded officer walked into the credit union, where employees locked the doors and used paper towels to stop the bleeding from his wound.
He said only one shot was fired, grazing but not puncturing the officer’s skull. Police officials said he was in stable but critical condition at Palomar Hospital in Escondido.
The officer was being closely monitored in case his brain was bruised, Carter said.
San Diego police Detective Gary Hassen said the officer is a 27-year veteran of the force who works patrol in the Southern Division and is set to retire in December. Police did not release the officer’s name.
Shortly after the shooting, police swarmed the credit union parking lot and blocked the entrance, an auto mechanic who works nearby said. A police helicopter also circled the neighborhood, the mechanic said.
Another witness at a nearby business said she did not hear the gunshot but heard the sirens and saw officers quickly descend on the area.
Teresa Halleck, the credit union’s president and chief operating officer, called the midday robbery and shooting at an ATM “a very unusual situation.”
“There are so many ATM withdrawals and deposits every day, and for a robbery to occur like that is very brazen,” Halleck said. “It’s just an unusual situation for this to occur in broad daylight. That is not typical at all.”
She also praised her staffers for doing “a great job,” locking the door and getting the officer emergency medical help.
“They reacted very quickly to assist the victim,” Halleck said.
The description of the suspect in both San Diego incidents was similar to the man in the Escondido ATM shooting. But the carjacking had a twist: The suspect was with a woman who also wore dark clothing marked “police.”
In the Mission Valley robbery, the victim was getting something out of the trunk of his car on Rio San Diego Drive east of Qualcomm Way when he was approached about 9 a.m., San Diego police said.
The thief — dressed in a security guard uniform — pointed a gun at the man, said he was an officer, and then stole his wallet and other personal belongings, police said.
The suspect was described as Latino, 35 to 40 years old, and short and stocky wearing a blue-gray uniform with a badge on his shirt.
He drove away in an older model, white four-door vehicle.
The ATM robbery happened a little more than three hours later.
Then around 1:20 p.m. — about an hour after the Escondido shooting — a man and a woman dressed in black and wearing vests that said “police” in white lettering carjacked a man in Oak Park. The male robber was carrying a semiautomatic handgun, police said.
The carjacking victim told police that he was in the Sam’s Club parking lot on College Grove Waywhen the pair approached and stole his black 2006 Suzuki Aerio hatchback. The duo left behind a white four-door Ford Crown Victoria that they set on fire.
Police described the female suspect as a Hispanic with a slim build. The man was described as Latino, unshaven and wearing a black beanie.
Investigators looked over the burned-out Crown Victoria until a tow truck hauled it off about 5 p.m. — leaving behind broken glass and charred car parts.
Authorities said anyone who spots someone they suspect is the gunman should call 911. Anyone with other information about the incidents is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.