California Highway Patrol officer Tony Pacheco was shot in his right thigh Wednesday alongside Interstate 8 during a scuffle for control of his own gun with a 25-year-old motorist.
Authorities identified the driver as Yuhao Du of San Diego, a UC San Diego graduate student studying physics. It remains unclear who pulled the trigger during the altercation that wounded Pacheco.
CHP said the incident occurred around 6:15 p.m. when Pacheco approached Du after he crashed his vehicle in the center median of I-8 in Mission Valley, near the I-805 overpass. In order to protect himself and Du, Pacheco parked in the fast lane, according to CHP Capt. Taylor Cooper.
Investigators said Du was in front of his Audi when he lunged toward Pacheco’s firearm, unprovoked. Cooper said the altercation happened within a few seconds of Pacheco encountering Du, letting out one round which injured the officer.
“The struggle (then) continued, at which point several passing motorists stopped to assist the injured officer by providing medical aid and restraining Du until additional law enforcement (personnel) arrived,'' CHP spokesman Jake Sanchez said.
Paramedics transported Pacheco to Scripps Mercy Hospital. He was admitted in stable condition.
Du was booked into San Diego Central Jail on suspicion of attempted murder of a peace officer, assault with a firearm causing great bodily injury, and attempting to take a law officer's gun. He was being held without bail pending arraignment, which was rescheduled for May 3 due to undisclosed reasons.
According to a GoFundMe.com page seeking donations to help cover medical expenses, Pacheco’s gunshot injuries will require “a lengthy rehabilitation and potential surgeries”.
CHP Chief Scott Parker said he was “extremely grateful for the members of the public who put themselves in harm's way to help our officer after he was shot in the leg.'
Pacheco is the father of two young children and whose wife, Janette, is pregnant, according to the GoFundMe.