A man admitted shooting two sheriff's deputies investigating allegations he sexually abused his girlfriend's daughters was sentenced Wednesday to two life terms in prison, as well as an additional 80 years to life.
Daniel Robert Witczak, 31, pleaded guilty to charges of attempted murder and child molestation earlier and was sentenced this afternoon.
Witczak's trial was scheduled to start next week
Both officers suffered arm wounds but said they forgave Witczak.
"I wish I could get those nightmares out of my head, but I just can't," Sgt. Craig Johnson said, referring to the roughly 15-minute gunfight in which he, Witczak and a Detective Ali Perez were wounded. "
Perez, who testified that he saw Jesus after being shot, urged Witczak to "turn your life to Christ.
"I forgive you," he said. "I'm not angry at you."
Outside court, Perez -- a 19-year veteran -- told reporters he hopes to return to work someday. He spent 100 days in the hospital and has undergone 25 surgeries.
"I'm only alive because of Jesus," Perez said. "My wounds are very severe and life-threatening, and I'm here to testify -- the miracle -- that on my dying breath Jesus Christ came down and saved my life. That's as real as you and I talking. I'm thankful for every breath. Every heartbeat I have is a gift from Him, and I don't forget that ever."
Johnson said he is contemplating retirement.
Earlier, Witczak pleaded guilty to two counts each of attempted murder of a police officer and committing a lewd act on a child, admitting he molested the 6- and 8-year-old girls, two days before the Sept. 25, 2012, shooting in Lakeside.
"Two of the most heinous acts one can commit is to harm a child, and attempt to kill another person -- especially those in law enforcement," Sheriff Bill Gore said in a statement. "I am pleased with today's sentence, as Witczak can no longer cause harm and suffering to the public and law enforcement."
Deputy District Attorney Damon Mosler echoed Gore's comments about Witczak.
"He's a violent predator, he showed that by his actions in this case," Mosler said. "(He) not only took advantage of two young ladies -- two girls ages 6 and 8 -- but he also shot two deputies. That's kind of the worst of the worst if you ask me."
At a preliminary hearing in March, Perez testified that he, Johnson and other deputies went to an apartment in the 12700 block of Mapleview Street and he kicked in the door when the defendant didn't answer.
"I heard a pop. My ears were ringing," he said. "My vision went out a little bit -- like static on the TV -- and when I gathered my senses, I was on the ground."
He said he was just inside the apartment, on his back and bleeding from a wound to his upper arm. He saw Johnson was shot in an arm and heard him put out an "officer down" call via police radio, Perez said.
The deputy said he fired seven or eight shots from a pistol holding 15 rounds, as a crouching Witczak peered out from his position in a hallway. The defendant came out again and shot him in the chest with a bullet that pierced his body armor, he said.
After firing the rest of the bullets in the clip, Perez said he lost his weapon, and Witczak shut the door, trapping him inside.
"I'm in a fight for my life and right now I'm losing," Perez said.
He said he was coming to terms with his own death on the floor when a "miracle" happened.
"My Lord and savior was sitting there right between me and the defendant. He was sitting in a chair and writing notes," Perez said.
Jesus handed him a note that told him to bless Witczak, according to the deputy. He said that while he regretted leaving his wife and children behind, he was comfortable with dying since Jesus was with him, so he complied.
"So I said, 'God bless you, brother,"' Perez said. He said he repeated the blessing at some point.
Witczak asked him if he wanted to go outside and join his friends and tried to open the door for him, but retreated from a hail of bullets, Perez testified. The defendant then laid down beside him and said, "Let's go together," according to the deputy.
Perez said he was afraid he was about to be killed, but Witczak said he couldn't do it and went into the hall. The deputy said he took that as a cue to flee, sliding outside where he was rescued by law enforcement officers.
In addition to the surgeries, Perez barely has use of his left arm. He said a shattered rib was removed, and a lung and other organs were damaged.
Johnson said he was shot in an arm about the same time he saw Perez on the ground. When he realized the bullet cut into the side of his chest, he and another deputy retreated to wait until reinforcements, he said.
Today he wore a cross around his neck, which was made a piece of the bullet he pulled from his chest.
According Witczak's girlfriend, the trouble started about 7:30 a.m. when she found cell phone images and video of Witczak, an out-of-work auto mechanic, engaging in sex acts with her daughters.
She left their apartment to call sheriff's deputies. Later that morning during a call being monitored by detectives, Witczak admitted to the crimes, claiming he was offered $50,000 to post the images online, authorities said.
The woman said she was on the phone with Witczak when the Perez and Johnson arrived and Perez kicked in the door.
-City News Service