Man who shot SDPD officer in City Heights testifies he didn’t mean to kill

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — A man who shot a San Diego police officer in a tunnel at the end of a chase through a City Heights canyon testified Thursday that he wasn’t trying to kill the officer and thought he could get away.

Ignacio Canela, 33, said Officer Timothy Bell followed him into the dark drainage tunnel and struck him above the left eyebrow with a Taser on Oct. 24, 2013.

Canela — who was armed — said Bell tried to pistol-whip him with his own gun, but the gun went off and the officer fell to the ground. The defendant said he saw a gun in Bell’s left hand, so he picked up his gun off the ground and fired toward the officer’s left arm.

Related Link: SDPD officer shot by wanted man in drainage tunnel testifies in court

"I’m not trying to shoot him in the head,” Canela testified.

Canela said he fired a couple more rounds toward the officer, and Bell took off running out of the tunnel.

"In my mind, he was safe,” the defendant testified.

Canela said he turned his gun on himself and contemplated suicide, but didn’t pull the trigger.

"I thought I was (expletive),” Canela said.

The defendant said he fled out the other end of the tunnel, threw his gun away in a grassy area and tried to hide before being captured.

Canela said he shot the officer in self-defense.

"I was trying to save my life,” Canela told his attorney, Jane Kinsey. "I wasn’t trying to hurt him. He had a weapon.”

Deputy District Attorney Michael Runyon said in his opening statement that Canela — who is charged with premeditated attempted murder, evading police and other counts — shot Bell four times as they struggled in the tunnel.

"He (Canela) was trying to kill him,” the prosecutor said, telling jurors the lives of the defendant and officer intersected with "tragic consequences, almost lethal consequences.”

Runyon said Canela — who was wanted on drug charges and for failure to appear in court — led officers on a chase from a home on Wightman Street to a
dead-end in the 3000 block of Central Avenue, where he ditched his car and took
off running into a canyon.

Bell pursued Canela and followed him into the drainage tunnel, where he tried to use his Taser on the suspect. They got into a physical confrontation, and Canela told the officer, "I give up,” according to Runyon.

Bell tried to push Canela away and the defendant starting shooting, striking the officer four times, including once in the left arm, the prosecutor alleged.

Runyon told jurors that Canela also ran from police in 2004 and had a modified knife in his back pocket when he was arrested.

When asked by an officer why he ran, Canela responded, "I don’t like pigs,” Runyon told the jury.

Canela also fled from police in a stolen SUV in December 2007, crashed into a parked car and took off running before being arrested, according to the prosecutor, who said officers recovered a loaded revolver from Canela in that incident.

"Kill or be killed” was Canela’s state of mind when confronted by the officer, Kinsey said. He said his client was so "bent” on getting away that he jumped out of his car at the entrance to the canyon while it was still moving.

Canela  — who has been to prison several times on burglary and other charges dating back to 2004 — faces 40 years to life in prison if convicted.

He will be back on the witness stand on Tuesday.

Categories: Local San Diego News