Injured officer back home, ex-con behind bars after City Heights freeway chase

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – An ex-con was back behind bars today and facing an array of charges for allegedly opening fire on a San Diego policeman, seriously wounding him, while trying to evade arrest by fleeing through a storm drain underneath a City Heights freeway interchange.

Ignacio Canela, 31, was arrested about 3:45 p.m. Thursday, less than 15 minutes after allegedly shooting SDPD Officer Tim Bell four times in the culvert at the intersection of Interstate 805 and State Route 15.

Bell, a five-year member of the department, underwent emergency surgery and was expected to fully recover, SDPD Chief William Lansdowne told reporters.

The 29-year-old married father of three was released from Scripps Memorial Hospital this afternoon and will continue receiving medical care at home, the chief said during an afternoon briefing in front of downtown police headquarters.

“He is positive and upbeat,” Lansdowne said. “He is ready to go back to work. It's going to be a little longer (to return to duty) than I think Tim wants it to be.”

The events that led to the shooting began about 2:15 p.m. Thursday, when officers put Canela under surveillance at a home in the 3700 block of Wightman Street, Capt. Terry McManus said.

After about an hour, Canela, who was the subject of two felony arrest warrants, walked out of the house with a female companion, and they got into a silver Dodge SUV with him behind the wheel and drove off, he said.

The officers tailed the vehicle onto nearby SR-15, waited until a police helicopter arrived over the area and tried to pull over Canela as he exited the freeway onto Adams Avenue, the captain said.

The suspect refused to yield and sped off to the south over various city streets before reaching a dead end in the 3000 block of Central Avenue. There, he and the woman jumped out of the SUV, which continued rolling and went down a brushy slope.

Officers chased Canela through a nearby canyon and into the dark drainage channel. Bell, the first to enter, promptly came under fire, suffering arm, leg and abdominal wounds, and was not able to return fire, according to police.

Bell's bulletproof vest likely prevented him from suffering considerably more serious — even fatal — injury, McManus said.

The wounded lawman's colleagues rendered first-aid, including application of a tourniquet, then carried him to a police vehicle and rushed him to the Hillcrest trauma center.

Officers arrested Canela in the 2100 block of Haller Street, on the opposite side of the two freeways from the site of the shooting. A loaded pistol was found ditched in a nearby residential yard. Investigators later determined that the weapon had been stolen during a burglary in City Heights last month, McManus said.

Canela, who allegedly has gang affiliations, was booked into San Diego Central Jail on suspicion of attempted murder, evading arrest, being a felon in possession of a firearm and other counts. He was held without bail pending arraignment, scheduled for Monday afternoon.

The unidentified woman who had been along for the ride during the road chase stayed around for a while after it ended, but then disappeared while officers were busy aiding Bell and searching for the shooter, McManus said.

“She was either picked up or walked away,” the captain told reporters, adding that it was unclear whether she could face any criminal charges in the case.

Canela has a “lengthy” and violent criminal history, according to McManus, who declined to elaborate.

Categories: KUSI