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Three Charged in Shooting of Calif. Officer

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- Attempted murder of a peace officer and firearms possession charges were filed Tuesday against three men in connection with Friday's shooting of San Bernardino Police Officer Gabriel Garcia, who remains comatose and in critical condition.

District Attorney Michael A. Ramos announced the filing of charges against Jonathan Contreras, 20, Gonzalo Medina, 22, and Orlando Cruz, 24, all of San Bernardino, during a news conference at the San Bernardino Police Department. All three were arrested following the gun battle that occurred in the 1900 block of Garner Avenue shortly after 2 a.m. Friday.

Each of the three men is charged with two counts of attempted murder of a peace officer and one count of possession of an assault rifle.

Garcia's assailant, 38-year-old Alex Alvarado, was shot by Garcia's unnamed rookie partner, whom Garcia was training, during the gun battle, and later died at the hospital, authorities said.

The three men charged Tuesday were with Alvarado and two women at the time of the shooting, police said.

"The District Attorney's Office wants to make very clear, if you aid and abet or are involved in a conspiracy in the assault or shooting of a peace officer, we will hold you accountable, even if you don't pull the trigger," Ramos said.

He said an investigation continues into whether the suspects had gang ties. If so, the charges will be amended to include gang enhancements.

Police said Alvarado was a career criminal and longtime member of a Redlands street gang.

All three suspects face life in prison if convicted, Ramos said.

Garcia and his partner were on patrol Friday when they spotted a group of people hanging out in the 1900 block of Garner Avenue shortly after 2 a.m. They approached the group when Alvarado, reportedly brandishing a Taurus .38 Special 5-shot revolver and a Ratmil AK-47 assault rifle, began firing on the officers. Garcia was shot once in the head. His partner drew his gun and shot Alvarado dead during the gun battle, police said.

Both guns were on display during Tuesday's news conference. The barrel of the assault rifle was sawed off and wrapped in a black bandana.

Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said return gunfire by the officer struck the AK-47. One of the bullets fired by the officer struck the assault rifle's recoiling mechanism, possibly causing it to malfunction. It could be a reason Alvarado drew the revolver and fired it as well, Burguan said.

Suspect Cruz, initially detained on a bench warrant Friday for failing to appear in court for a traffic violation and subsequently released from custody, was arrested again Tuesday afternoon in connection with the shooting.

Medina ran from the scene of Friday's shooting but was found and arrested a few hours later on a drug-related offense, Burguan said, adding that both Medina and Contreras have been in custody since Friday.

The two unnamed women were also arrested Friday but have since been released from custody, and there are no plans to charge them, Burguan said.

Burguan took the time during the news conference to thank his department's partner agencies--the District Attorney's Office and San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department--for their assistance in the investigation, and commended them for their exemplary work. Sheriff John McMahon was also present during the conference.

Meanwhile, Garcia, a 31-year-old, 6-year veteran of the Police Department, remains in critical condition, in a medically induced coma. His family remains at his bedside, Burguan said.

"They have not left his side and they are being as optimistic as they can possibly be under the circumstances," Burguan said.

Copyright 2014 - San Bernardino County Sun, Calif.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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