The name and booking photo of a suspected thief who was shot by an off-duty CHP officer early Tuesday in Murrieta were released today.
Mario Enrique Penton, 26, of Moreno Valley, is being held on $250,000 bail today while still recovering from his gunshot wounds in an inmate's hospital ward, according to Murrieta police Capt. Dennis Vrooman.
Police believe Penton was shot at about 3:33 a.m. Tuesday in the 27000 block of Wedgewood Way in Murrieta, when the department received several phone calls regarding gunshots heard, Vrooman said in a news release.
"Officers responded to the scene and discovered the source of the gunshots was from an off-duty California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer who had interrupted a theft in progress near his home," Vrooman said.
"The CHP officer was awoken to the sounds of dogs barking and went outside to investigate."
According to police, the officer saw a man in front of his neighbor’s house actively stealing patio furniture and was allegedly attempting to load the items onto his awaiting gray Dodge Dakota pick-up truck, which was parked and idling in the street.
"The officer walked up to the suspect and asked what he was doing," Vrooman said. "The suspect lied and told the officer he lived at the location."
The officer then identified himself to the suspect as an off-duty law enforcement officer, police said.
"The officer saw the suspect reach into his pockets and then also his vehicle. As the suspect reached inside his pick-up truck, the officer saw the suspect grab for what appeared to be a chrome-colored handgun and quickly displayed it at the officer," Vrooman said.
"Based upon the suspect’s actions and fearing for his own safety, the officer discharged his firearm several times at the suspect and his vehicle."
How many rounds were fired was still under investigation, police said.
Penton then got into his vehicle and left the scene, according to Vrooman.
"Arriving Murrieta officers set up an immediate containment of the area but were unable to locate the suspect or his vehicle," he said.
At around 4:20 a.m., Murrieta police were notified there was a gunshot victim who had arrived at the Riverside County Regional Medical Center in Moreno Valley, Vrooman said.
The man suffered several non-life threatening gunshot wounds to one of his legs, Vrooman said.
"Based upon the injuries sustained, this person was believed to be the outstanding suspect," Vrooman said.
His truck was later located at another location in Moreno Valley, police said.
Police believe Penton abandoned his truck and that another person drove him to RCRMC and dropped him off for treatment of his injuries.
"The truck was found to have several bullet holes which corresponded to the evidence at the scene," Vrooman said. "The suspect admitted to being at the Murrieta location at the time of the shooting."
While Penton remains hospitalized, he has been booked through the Robert Presley Detention Center on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon against a peace officer, receiving stolen property, petty theft with prior convictions and obstructing/resisting an officer, Vrooman said.
He added that Penton has extensive arrests and convictions for illegal drugs and thefts.
The name of the CHP officer, who works out of a San Diego County CHP office, will not be released by the Murrieta Police Department, Vrooman said.
The CHP San Diego office could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.
Murrieta police continue their investigation into the incident and asked anyone with further information to call Detective Sgt. Phil Gomez at 951-461-6356.