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Car-theft suspect shot by Santa Ana school cop

Santa Ana school police reportedly shot a suspect in his car following a traffic stop on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011.

January 11, 2011 12:55:20 AM PST
A Santa Ana School Police officer opened fire on a suspected car thief who reportedly tried to hit a motorcycle officer.An officer shot the suspect near 5th and Fairview streets at approximately 10 a.m. during a traffic stop in front of the Santa Ana Unified School District office. The wounded suspect managed to drive blocks away before police caught up with him.

"They observed this vehicle, the suspect vehicle, commit a traffic violation," said Santa Ana Police Corporal Anthony Bertagna.

Authorities allege the suspect, Gabriel Hernandez, 19, was driving a Hyundai. Instead of stopping, Hernandez allegedly tried to run over a school police officer on a motorcycle. It was unclear why Hernandez was pulled over.

"The other officer fires several rounds, striking the suspect, we believe just once," said Bertagna.

The suspect was injured by gunfire. He drove the bullet-ridden car 14 blocks to where police suspect he ditched the car, at 2805 W. Brook St. He then allegedly ran to a nearby house on the 700 block of Shawnee Dr.

"He doesn't know the people, knocks on the door and says, 'Help me, I've been shot by the police,'" said Bertagna.

Police soon arrested Hernandez. He was transported in unknown condition to UCI Medical Center.

Police learned the car was reported stolen out of Fountain Valley.

An investigation was launched into whether the shooting was justified. It's the first officer-involved shooting ever involving Santa Ana Unified School District Police Department personnel.

"It's unfortunate for everyone involved," said Santa Ana School Police Chief David Valentin. "We have an officer who had to make a critical decision and we're investigating that and then we also have a person that was injured."

The shooting occurred near two schools.

"My kids go here and I'm just concerned," said Santa Ana resident Ralph Beltram. "It's the safety of the children, right, first. Luckily no children got hurt."

According to police, the suspect was expected to survive. Hernandez faces a number of charges, including grand-theft auto.

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