SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A San Diego policewoman wounded last spring in an exchange of gunfire with a fleeing suspect was struck by a round discharged by a fellow officer, SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman confirmed Wednesday.
Officer Heather Seddon suffered a bullet wound to her neck while chasing 34-year-old Dennis Richard Fiel through Clairemont Mesa along with other patrol personnel on the morning of May 17.
When Fiel -- a suspect in a months-long series of non-injury shootings of buildings in Kearny Mesa -- drew a gun and opened fire on his pursuers, Officers Joshua Hodge and Mario Larrea returned fire.
Fiel died at the scene of the shootout just north of Sharp Memorial Hospital.
Seddon was hospitalized for several days, continued her recovery at home and eventually returned to work.
The department's initial statements about the deadly encounter suggested that it was Fiel who shot Seddon. A news release issued that afternoon stated, "When officers approached (the suspect), a foot chase took place, and (Fiel) produced a gun and fired at the officers. One ... officer chasing the suspect was shot in her upper torso."
Following a "lengthy and thorough investigation," however, detectives determined that the bullet that struck Seddon was fired by a police firearm, Zimmerman said. Seddon's bullet entry wound had jagged edges, suggesting that the slug likely decelerated prior to hitting her, possibly from striking or ricocheting off "another object or person," according to the chief.
It was unclear which of Seddon's colleagues fired the round that wounded her.
Despite the ultimate findings about the shooting, Zimmerman praised the actions of the personnel involved in the pursuit and shooting.
"I commend our officers for their heroic efforts," she said. "This is an example of the dangerous encounters our police officers face on a daily basis to keep the citizens of our city, whom we proudly serve, safe."
Indications that Seddon was wounded by so-called "friendly fire" first emerged publicly last week, when an SDPD veteran made a passing reference to the fact in a legal action she has taken against the department.
The lawsuit filed by Lt. Natalie Stone, a 27-year member of the agency, alleges retaliatory treatment on the part of her supervisors over complaints she lodged about a police captain's purportedly abusive and intimidating management style.