- The Washington Times - Friday, January 3, 2003

SAN ANTONIO, Jan. 3 (UPI) — An argument between a man and a woman in a San Antonio restaurant Friday turned into a wild gun battle that left the man dead and four police officers injured. Two of the officers were reported in critical condition.

The incident began about 3:30 a.m. at a Denny's restaurant when a man walked into the restaurant with his girlfriend and they began arguing, said police Sgt. Gabe Trevino.

When officers arrived the man turned on them, he said, managing to wrestle the .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol from one of the policemen and took several shots.

"Both of the officers were shot four times in the chest and upper body," Trevino said.

Trevino said one of the wounded officers managed to call for backup and follow the suspect into the parking lot, where more shots were exchanged.

A third officer was shot in the parking lot and a fourth was badly beaten by the suspect using the emptied gun as a club. The officer who followed the suspect outside from the restaurant shot the suspect several times.

"The suspect was shot several times and literally died on top of one of our officers," Police Chief Albert Ortiz told WOAI radio.

One witness said it looked like a "war zone."

"The counter inside is covered with blood, because that's where the policeman was when he was shot," said one witness who asked not to be identified.

Trevino said Officer Michael Muniz, despite suffering four gunshot wounds, was able to pursue the suspect to the parking lot and kill him.

Muniz, 22, and David Evans, 51, were reported in critical condition at Brooke Army Medical Center following surgery at mid-day. Muniz has only been on the force five months.

Officer Nathan Murray, 33, is in good condition with gunshot wounds and Detective John Bocho, 36, who was beaten about the head, is in stable condition at University Hospital.

Police Chief Albert Ortiz told reporters the gunman was a 28-year-old man who had been convicted of attempted murder in a gang-related drive-by shooting. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison but given an early release after serving seven years.

"I'm outraged that a person who was convicted of attempted murder could be out on our streets after only seven years placing this young lady and our police officers in danger," the chief said.

Ortiz said the suspect had forced his girlfriend at gunpoint to drive to the restaurant after a day-long argument. The man's identity has not been released.

No bystanders were hurt. Police couldn't immediately say how many shots were fired, but said it appeared to be "in excess of two dozen." The restaurant and the parking lot were surrounded in yellow crime scene tape, and a portion of a nearby street was closed while detectives investigated. Police also said a portion of the gun battle was recorded by the restaurant's security cameras.

Detectives are questioning the suspect's girlfriend. One witness said that before grabbing the officer's gun, the man turned to the woman and said: "so this is how you want it to end?"

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