SAN JOSE -- A gunbattle in the middle of an East San Jose intersection left a robbery suspect wounded and a police officer grazed by shrapnel Friday night after the suspect jumped from his vehicle and fired several rounds into the officer's squad car.
The officer's life was probably saved by a second officer, who fired back as the suspect riddled the first officer's car with bullets, police said.
The suspect was found hiding in a nearby house later that evening. A second man ran away and was still at large Saturday night, police said.
The two are suspects in a string of four armed robberies that terrorized the city earlier in the evening. Police on Saturday were also investigating whether there's a connection to the fatal shooting of a man whose body was found just after 9 p.m. in a convenience store parking lot on South Kiely Boulevard in West San Jose. It was the city's 42nd homicide this year.
"We are looking at a possible connection," said Sgt. Jason Dwyer, a police spokesman. "There are two suspects there, and two suspects on the same day were involved in another crime spree. They may or may not be connected. We can't ignore that."
What Dwyer described as "a good old-fashioned gunbattle" was set off when a police officer spotted two men matching the description of the robbery suspects driving in a car on U.S. Highway 101 near Interstate 280 at 9:16 p.m.
The officer followed the car, which took the Tully Road exit and stopped at the intersection of Tully Road and Lanai Avenue.
Before the officer could get out of his squad car, the driver of the car jumped out, walked toward him and began firing several rounds.
"The officer was trapped in his car and basically didn't have the opportunity to return fire," Dwyer said.
A worker at a nearby restaurant who saw the shootout described it as "scary" and "horrible." She declined to give her name.
The officer ducked behind the dashboard as bullets tore through the windshield, hood and side window, Dwyer said.
One round hit a pepper spray canister on the officer's belt, Dwyer said. Shrapnel from the canister or flying glass slightly wounded him, and the spray briefly disabled him.
As bullets flew, a second officer, Bruce Barthelemy, who had joined the pursuit, pulled up and fired back, hitting the suspect at least once.
The first officer and the suspect were both treated at a local hospital. Police did not release the name of either the wounded officer or the man taken into custody.
The officer "is lucky to be alive," Dwyer said. Barthelemy, a five-year veteran of the department, "pretty much saved his life," Dwyer said.
The shooter ran back to his car and sped away, crashing into a structure at nearby Reid-Hillview Airport as the two officers pursued him.
He ran into a residential neighborhood, gaining entrance to a home through a sliding door. The occupants ran out the front door and alerted police.
Hours later, at about 1 a.m. Saturday, the suspect surrendered after police surrounded the home.
Dwyer said police were still looking for the second man.
The two men are suspects in the robberies of two restaurants, a gas station and a pedestrian earlier Friday evening. Dwyer said "the smartest thing" for the second suspect to do "is call 911 and turn himself in."
Hit by robbers one after the other Friday evening were Little Caesars, a pizza parlor at Story Road and White Road; a gas station at McLaughlin Avenue and East Capitol Expressway; a Jack in the Box at Curtner Avenue and Canoas Garden Avenue; and a pedestrian on Bird Avenue.
Dwyer said it's rare for a suspect to advance on an officer. Normally, suspects try to run away, he said.
"To have somebody turn on you and attack you with a gun is very rare and very dangerous," he said.
The police officer, a 10-year veteran, is "shaken, as I think anybody would be in this situation," Dwyer said. "He's OK. Had some time to digest it. Both officers did a great job. "
The two officers will be placed on administrative leave until the shooting is investigated, which is routine for officer-involved shootings.
The homicide victim has not been identified. Dwyer said he was a sitting in a vehicle outside the 7-Eleven when shots were fired, hitting the victim. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Contact Pete Carey at 408-920-5419