SAN BERNARDINO (CBSLA.com) — A police officer remained in critical condition Saturday after undergoing neurosurgery following a shooting that killed a suspect in San Bernardino.
The officer-involved shooting occurred around 2:07 a.m. Friday in the 1900 block of Garner Avenue, authorities said.
Veteran officer Gabriel Garcia, 31, and a new officer trainee were patrolling the area, known for criminal activity, to “check on some individuals,” Lt. Rich Lawhead said.
The officers confronted a group of six people outside a home on a dead-end street.
“They did all meet earlier at a club here in town. From there they went and got some alcohol, and then for reasons I’m still not clear on they ended up on this street,” Chief Jarrod Burguan said.
As soon as officers approached the group, one suspect, identified as 38-year-old Alex Alvarado, started shooting, according to detectives.
“The second officer turned and saw his partner go down, saw the suspect with a gun and immediately engaged in a gun battle with that suspect,” Burguan said of the training officer who had just been out of the academy a few months.
Garcia, a 6.5-year veteran of the San Bernardino Police Department where his father also serves as a Captain, was shot once in the head and twice in the upper body.
Fellow officers rushed him to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in a patrol car where he underwent surgery, which was completed around 7:30 a.m., according to Burguan.
Garcia, who is the father of one, remains in a medically induced coma to release the swelling of his brain.
“The officer is fighting for his life at this point,” Burguan said. “His family is there by his side. They’re at the hospital, and we have a very strong support structure around him at this time.”
“Gabe is an outstanding officer, a great team member and a great man. He has always displayed extreme professionalism and a great attitude toward his job, earning the utmost respect from fellow officers and the department as a whole. His calming and compassionate nature has earned multiple letters from citizens thanking him for his assistance with crimes such as armed robberies and carjackings. He is exemplary in every sense of the word,” Burguan continued.
Family, friends and co-workers held a vigil outside of the hospital to pray for Garcia Friday evening.
KCAL9’s Bobby Kaple spoke with Naomi Ruiz on Saturday, who said her grandfather is staying in the hospital room next to Garcia.
Ruiz said a steady stream of officers from all over the Inland Empire have been stopping by to lend their support at his bedside.
“Most of them are praying for him, they are talking specifically towards him,” said Ruiz. “I’ve seen him, he was in the bed. I think he was holding his badge in his hand.”
Alvarado, who has a significant criminal history, was also transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead, authorities said.
An AK-47-type assault rifle with high-capacity magazines and a revolver were recovered at the scene, police said. Suspect Jonathan Contreras, 20, was arrested for possession of those weapons.
Orlando Cruz, 24, was taken into custody on outstanding traffic warrants. It was unclear if additional charges would be filed against him in relation to the officer-involved shooting.
Police also took another man and two women, between 18 and 24 years old with criminal record, into custody.
The San Bernardino Police Officer’s Association has set up a donation page for those who would like to contribute to the Garcia family.