Convict who shot officer in drainage tunnel sentence to 54 years in prison
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — A felon who led police on a dangerous vehicle pursuit through the streets of City Heights, then shot an officer who followed him on foot into a dark drainage tunnel, was sentenced Wednesday to 54 years to life in state prison.
Ignacio Canela, 33, was convicted earlier this month of premeditated attempted murder in the shooting that seriously injured five-year-veteran Officer Timothy Bell in 2013. He was also convicted of drug and weapons charges and evading police with reckless driving. Before the incident, Canela was wanted on drug charges and for failure to appear in court.
Superior Court Judge Frederic Link said Canela started committing crimes when he was 13.
“He’s a criminal,” Link said of the defendant. “He violates almost every rule that society has put up. He tried to kill a police officer.”
The 31-year-old officer was placed on disability because of his injuries, and more needs to be done to help him, the judge said.
Bell’s wife, Priscilla, said in a letter to the court that she and her children were playing in the park when they got the news that her husband had been shot.
She said her children were worried that they were going to lose their father that day and her husband lost his dream job because of the defendant’s violent actions.
“We have every right to hate you, (but) we forgive you,” the wife said.
Deputy District Attorney Michael Runyon told jurors that Canela 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, Bell earlier testified. 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 said. The officer was able to escape the tunnel as Canela fired at him, Runyon said.
Canela ran through the tunnel and was arrested about a half-hour later. A firearm was later recovered near where Canela was taken into custody.
Canela said he shot the officer in self-defense.
Canela testified that 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.
Canela said he fired a couple more rounds toward the officer, and Bell took off running out of the tunnel.
“I was trying to save my life,” Canela told his attorney, Jane Kinsey. “I wasn’t trying to hurt him. He had a weapon.”
Runyon said 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. She said her 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 has been to prison four times for vandalism, evading, burglary and drug convictions.