One of two sheriff's personnel seriously wounded this week in a shootout with an alleged child molester at an East County apartment complex was released from a hospital Friday to continue his recovery at home.
Sgt. Craig Johnson, from the Santee Station, was discharged late Friday morning from Sharp Memorial Hospital, where his critically injured colleague, child-abuse Detective Ali Perez, remains in an intensive-care unit, according to sheriff's officials.
The two lawmen came under heavy gunfire about 12:15 p.m. Tuesday in front of an apartment in the 12700 block of Mapleview Street in Lakeside, where they had gone to question a man accused of sexually assaulting his live-in girlfriend's 6-year-old daughter.
Out-of-work auto mechanic Daniel Robert Witczak, 30, allegedly shot Johnson and Perez with a high-powered rifle, then got into a nearly 15-minute gun battle with other deputies who arrived in response to the ambush. The assailant finally surrendered after suffering several bullet wounds, officials said.
Witczak pleaded not guilty Thursday afternoon from his hospital bed to three charges of attempted murder of a peace officer. The third count involves a California Highway Patrol officer whom the suspect allegedly targeted but missed.
More charges may be filed against Witczak after authorities finish investigating the child-molestation allegations, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said.
Johnson's family has asked for privacy while he recovers at home, said Sheriff Bill Gore, who praised the sergeant and his colleagues for the "bravery, loyalty and dedication to duty" they displayed under fire.
"As an example, one of the deputies who initially went to the apartment ... to arrest Witczak physically shielded his partners after the shooting began," the sheriff said, adding that several others "rushed toward the apartment in an effort to not only rescue their fallen comrades, but keep others from harm."
It was unclear when Perez might be released from the hospital, but physicians are optimistic about his prospects for a full recovery, according to Gore.
The Deputy Sheriffs' Association of San Diego County has created a donation account for Perez. Contributions may be made at any San Diego County Credit Union branch or to the DSA's office in Poway. Credit-card donations also may be phoned in to the agency at (858) 486-9009, ext. 100.
-City News Service
Also read: Suspect in Lakeside Shooting Pleads Not Guilty to Attempted Murder