The man accused of shooting a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer in the leg during a traffic altercation in Mission Valley pled not guilty on Tuesday by reason of insanity.
Yuhao Du, 25, faced charges that includes the attempted murder of a peace officer. Du allegedly lunged for CHP officer Antonio “Tony" Pacheco’s service weapon on April 27, causing the pistol to fire during the struggle. According to CHP, the shooting began around 6:15 p.m. when Du crashed his vehicle on eastbound Interstate 8 near the 1-805 overpass.
CHP spokesman Jake Sanchez said Pacheco pulled over alongside the freeway where the solo collision occurred and contacted Du, who stood in the center median area.
Du, a graduate student studying physics at UC San Diego, allegedly attached Pacheco unprovoked, “lunging for his service gun'', and "trying to take control of it,''
Several good Samaritans stopped to assist the injured officer and restrained Du until law enforcement arrived. They also recorded cell phone videos of the incident.
Along with attempted murder, Du is charged with felony counts of assault on a peace officer with a semi-automatic firearm, removing and taking a firearm from an officer.
Paramedics transported Pacheco to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. He was treated and later released. According to a GoFundMe.com page seeking donations to help pay for medical expenses, Pacheco requires “a lengthy rehabilitation and potential surgeries”.
A message posted last week on the page states that Pacheco was re-admitted due to "serious complications to the wound".
Du’s mother, Xiugin Li, traveled to San Diego from China to show support for her son. Anna Demidchik, one of Du’s attorneys, translated for Li in a statement to the court.
“We really hope that Officer Pacheco can recover as quickly as possible. What happened must be extremely traumatizing, not just for the officer … but also for his family," Li said.
She said: “Yuhao has always been a very good, responsible, and hard-working kid … It breaks my heart to see him in this situation. But I trust the American justice system to get to the bottom of the problem and to find the right resolution.''
Du remains in custody without bail. Following his plea Tuesday morning, the next steps will involve having him examined by doctors.
Demidchik said the plea was “a difficult decision for us to make.'' The attorney said the decision was discussed “extensively with Mr. Du, but we believe that under the circumstances, it's the best way to go.''
Du is set to appear for a preliminary hearing in August.