Breaking News
More () »

SDPD releases video of fatal shooting at Talmadge-area strip mall, involving a ghost gun

According to police, SDPD Officers Gregory Bergman and Anthony Guerra shot Jesus Salvador Valeta, 22, when he raised a ghost gun in their direction.

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Police Department Monday released video footage of the fatal shooting of a firearm-assault suspect by a pair of patrolmen at a Talmadge-area strip mall.

According to police, SDPD Officers Gregory Bergman and Anthony Guerra shot Jesus Salvador Valeta, 22, when he raised a ghost gun in their direction at the commercial center near the intersection of El Cajon Boulevard and 54th Street on the evening of July 23. Valeta was pronounced dead at a hospital a short time later.

Warning: This video contains graphic content that could be disturbing to some viewers.

The events that led to Valeta's death began shortly before 9 that night, when a 911 caller reported a shooting in the 5900 block of University Avenue in the El Cerrito neighborhood.

Patrol officers arrived in the area to find a 29-year-old man suffering from gunshot wounds, SDPD Lt. Matt Dobbs said. Paramedics took him to a hospital, where he underwent surgery and was listed in stable condition.

A short time later, police helicopter personnel spotted a vehicle matching witness descriptions of one that sped off following the shooting, and officers in squad cars caught up with it and pulled it over in a parking lot next to a Grocery Outlet store a few blocks north of Colina Del Sol Park.

"Three suspects remained in the vehicle, but one ran from the car," Dobbs said. "Officers and the helicopter crew saw the man with a gun in his hand. He disregarded several commands to stop and drop the weapon."

Video footage shot from the police helicopter shows Valeta running to the west on a sidewalk, then fleeing across El Cajon Boulevard and into another strip mall.

With officers chasing him on foot with their guns drawn, the suspect bolted over to a Japanese fast-foot restaurant and proceeded to run completely around the building before stumbling, falling and dropping his weapon next to a vehicle in a drive-thru lane.

Valeta then picked up the gun, got back to his feet and ran into a small landscaped area behind the restaurant, where he again fell. Seconds later, Bergman and Guerra shot him.

Images captured by officers' uniform-worn cameras show the suspect in his final moments kneeling on the ground and raising his right hand -- still holding the gun -- behind him toward the officers, at which point the two patrolmen opened fire. At that point, the mortally wounded suspect threw the gun away onto the dirt in front of him and collapsed face-down onto the ground.

Other body-worn-camera images show Valeta's finger on the trigger of his gun, and subsequent investigation revealed that the trigger had been pulled at some point but that a round in the chamber did not fire, according to police.

"Those officers were incredibly brave," said Ray Shay, a former San Diego police lieutenant and SWAT commander, who previously served as a lethal force instructor for the San Diego Regional Police Academy.

News 8 asked him to review the video provided by San Diego Police.

"I can't tell what his intent was, but  I can see that he knew these police officers were chasing him, and he raised his gun up at them," Shay said. "These officers were in serious threat of their lives previous to that, so they showed enormous restraint."

This was an especially complicated tactical operation, according  to Shay, particularly with all of the civilians present during the pursuit.

"Unfortunately it ended this way, but thank goodness no one else was hurt," Shay told News 8. 

Three other suspects detained during the traffic stop were jailed on suspicion of murder -- for Valeta's death -- along with robbery, firearm assault and criminal conspiracy. The murder charge is based on the felony murder rule, which holds a person responsible for a death that occurs during the commission of a serious crime.

The firearm that Valeta had been wielding and two others found in the suspects' vehicle were kit-built polymer pistols lacking serial numbers -- weapons commonly known as ghost guns, which are popular among criminals because they are difficult to trace.

Investigators believe that the suspects were involved in another shooting in the Mission Beach area about four hours prior to the one that wounded the victim in the mid-city commercial district south of San Diego State University, according to the SDPD. No injuries from the earlier outbreak of gunfire near Belmont Park were reported.

Watch Related: San Diego City Council cracking down on ghost guns (August 2021)