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Off-duty Officer Attacked by Man with a Rock

El Cerrito, California – A man was shot after attacking an off-duty police officer late Sunday night.

El Cerrito Police Department (ECPD) reports officers were dispatched to a call of gunfire outside a six-unit building located at Moeser Ln. and Kearney St. at around 10:00 p.m.

When officers arrived, they found 44-year-old Tom Vincent Whalen suffering from a gunshot wound, with the shooter, off-duty SFPD police officer Roderick Sugui-tan standing nearby. Whalen was taken by medics to Highland Hospital in Oakland for treatment of what was reported as non-life-threatening injuries and expected to recover.

Officer Sugui-tan said Whalen, who police described as a transient, had attempted to attack him with a rock before he was forced to shoot. The suspect was arrested and charged with suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon or instrument on a peace officer. Whalen is being held on $75,000 bond.

Sugui-tan’s neighbor, Gary Sterman, told SFChronicle the officer went to investigate a loud banging noise on the front gate of the building’s courtyard which the homeless are known to use as a toilet and a place to use illicit drugs.

Sterman reported he heard a noisy fight taking place outside the building followed by two gunshots.

SFPD says they have started an investigation into the shooting, including a probe by internal affairs to make sure the shooting is on the up-and-up since no witnesses could be found to corroborate the officers account of events.

Tom Vincent Whalen. Photo: El Cerrito Police Department

“It’s an unfortunate matter, and nobody wants to hurt a human being. As police officers, we want to preserve human life. We want to save lives. Cops definitely don’t want to take lives.” Officer Sugui-tan told KTVU in an interview.

Nicole Pifari, the attorney representing the police officer, told SFChronicle Sugui-tan was acting in self defense when he shot Whalen,

“Obviously, the investigations into this matter are ongoing,” she said. “However, I’m confident that when all the facts are in, the evidence will show the officer was acting lawfully to protect his own life last night and did what he needed to do to survive a violent encounter.”

Sugui-tan, who was awarded a Bronze Medal of Valor for stopping a man armed with a machete in 2010, has been placed on administrative leave per department policies until after the investigation is concluded.

A common place for criminals to launch their attack is the entry point of your home, whether the front door, or in this case, the front gate. Read here for the latest tactics and techniques on how to deal with Door Ambushes.


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