On December 4, 1987, at 10:30 p.m., a man fired a gunshot through his neighbor’s townhouse on East Mission Boulevard in the city of Escondido. When Escondido Police officers arrived they found evidence of the crime but no sign of the suspect. Then at 4:15 a.m. the next morning a second call from the complex indicated the man returned to his apartment and again was shooting into the neighborhood. Escondido police responded, contained the area, began evacuating residents and called the San Diego Sheriff SWAT team to assist them.
At 9:50 a.m. a decision was made to enter the apartment and end the standoff. Tear gas was launched into the suspect’s apartment. Ten minutes later, when the suspect failed to exit, the team elected to make a forced entry. When the team entered through the front door it was met with gunfire from the suspect who was prone 15 feet inside and armed with an AK-47. One round struck Encinitis Police Officer Scott Rossall in the leg. A second round struck Officer Chuck Wagner of North County in the finger. But a third round entered between Deputy Lonny Brewer’s vest panels and entered his chest.
The team withdrew from the apartment and their injured were attended to. Deputy Brewer was transported to Palomar Memorial Hospital. A surgical team worked on him frantically for two hours before he died.
A second SWAT team from the city of San Diego arrived in the early afternoon with a special armored assault vehicle. At 4:32 p.m., the members of this team from this vehicle fired tear gas into the suspect’s apartment as well as weapons fire. Simultaneously, San Diego Sheriff’s explosive experts set off a charge against the wall of his apartment. With his position now untenable, the suspect ran from his apartment armed and wearing military fatigues. This produced a moment of uncertainty as to his identity, but in the ensuing gun battle he was shot multiple times and killed.
Deputy Brewer, 29, was recently married to his wife, Cathy, also a San Diego Deputy Sheriff. Tragically, December 5 was also her birthday.
Sources: Los Angeles Times, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department