EL CAJON, Calif.—A veteran California Highway Patrol officer testified Monday that he feared for his life, thinking he would be run down, after shots were fired at the end of a nighttime car chase in El Cajon.
The testimony by CHP Officer Robin Mello came as a preliminary hearing got under way for Edward Michael Forney, a 20-year-old Marine charged with three counts of attempted murder, two counts of assault with a firearm on a peace officer and assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer.
The now-retired Mello and his partner, Officer April Carter, testified that they were on eastbound Interstate 8 near W. Main Street last Aug. 9 about 3 a.m. when they spotted two cars moving slowly and weaving around each other.
They tried to pull over the most erratic vehicle, a small SUV, but the driver took off, exited at Mollison Avenue and later went down Madison Avenue at high speed before coming to a sudden stop, the officers said.
The driver and passenger ran off in opposite directions, they said. The officers testified that they chased the driver toward the parking lot of a strip mall.
Mello said he was running in the middle of the street when he heard gunshots.
"It took a split second for it to penetrate that that's what I was hearing,'' Mello said. "It was a fast series of shots.''
He said he did not see Carter, and she did not respond when he yelled for her.
Mello said he thought the shots came from the area of the SUV, so he returned to where the vehicle was stopped.
"I heard it rev and it suddenly accelerated and came toward me in the middle of the street,'' Mello said. "It was my impression the headlights were coming directly at me. I was in fear of my life at that time, so I fired several rounds from (my weapon) and tried to get out of the way so I wouldn't get run down.''
The SUV was driven off and, since he didn't know if Carter had been shot, he got into his patrol car and drove into the parking lot, where he found her coming out from behind the pillar of a building, he said.
The bullet-riddled vehicle was later found abandoned on state Route 125 in Spring Valley.
Forney, a documented gang member, was detained at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar the next day and had what appeared to be a grazing bullet wound to his left thigh.
The preliminary hearing is expected to run through Tuesday, when Judge
David Thompson will decide whether there is enough evidence to order a trial for Forney. Charges against him were previously dropped and reinstated by the District Attorney's Office.
He faces multiple life terms in prison if convicted.
The driver of the car, Charles Henderson Neal, pleaded guilty to felony evading last October and was sentenced to a two-year prison term.