SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A robbery suspect wounded in an exchange of gunfire with a patrolman near a South Bay drugstore pleaded not guilty from his hospital bed Wednesday to attempted murder of a police officer and other charges.
John Edward Pantoja, 22, was ordered held without bail and faces 46 years to life in prison if convicted, said Deputy District Attorney Melissa Vasel.
Pantoja allegedly opened fire on the officer, missing him, shortly after carrying out an armed holdup at the CVS Pharmacy on Third Avenue in northern Chula Vista early Monday morning.
The lawman arrived at the business in response to the robbery just after 1:30 a.m. and spotted Pantoja, who matched the bandit's description, near the business, Chula Vista police Capt. Gary Wedge said.
Moments later, before the officer was able to get out of his cruiser, Pantoja fired several shots in his direction, then walked off toward a nearby park, according to Wedge.
A moment later, however, Pantoja turned around and headed back, the captain said.
"While doing so, the suspect pointed his gun at the officer," Wedge said. "Believing the suspect was going to shoot at him again, the officer, who was now out of his vehicle, fired three rounds from his patrol rifle, striking the suspect once in the leg."
The patrolman, a 13-year member of the Chula Vista Police Department, was uninjured.
Officers gathering evidence at the scene of the gunfire recovered a small-caliber pistol believed to have been wielded by the robber, money that apparently had been stolen from the business and car keys taken from a pharmacy customer under threat of violence during the holdup.
Besides attempted murder, Pantoja is charged with assault with a firearm on a police officer and two counts of robbery with a gun.
Judge Alvin Green Jr. scheduled a readiness conference for Dec. 3 and a preliminary hearing for Jan. 14.
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