SAN JOSE: Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Deputy Sukhdeep Singh Gill was on routine patrol late on Friday night near the Uvas Reservoir when he pulled his SUV over and got out to take a look around.

Deputy Gill noticed a car approaching where he was standing on the side of Uvas Road, in unincorporated Morgan Hill. As it got closer, its headlights suddenly vanished.

Four gunshots quickly followed, with one round hitting Deputy Gill squarely in the chest. By a stroke of luck, the bullet struck his body-worn camera, which itself was backed by his standard-issue body armour.

Pictured is the body-worn camera of a Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputy that absorbed a bullet fired at him during what authorities described as an ambush attack on Uvas Road in unincorporated Morgan Hill, near the Uvas Reservoir, on Jan. 31, 2020. (Santa Clara Co. Sheriff’s Office)
Pictured is the body-worn camera of a Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputy that absorbed a bullet fired at him during what authorities described as an ambush attack on Uvas Road in unincorporated Morgan Hill, near the Uvas Reservoir, on Jan. 31, 2020. (Santa Clara Co. Sheriff’s Office)

Deputy Gill was able to fire two rounds from his service pistol at his fleeing attacker and then notified the emergency dispatchers of the shooting. As they attempted to obtain more information over the radio, they were met with silence. Deputy Gill had fallen down an embankment and was eventually able to make it back to the roadway and notify the dispatchers of the shooting.

The deputy is now recovering from his injuries in what Sheriff Laurie Smith called an “unprovoked attack” during a Monday news conference in which she and Lt. Brendan Omori detailed the shooting.

 

“It was an ambush,” Smith said. “Any one of those rounds could have hit him anywhere. He was very brave under fire.”

At the news conference, the Sheriff’s Office released a photo of Gill’s body-worn camera, which showed damage indicating that the assailant’s bullet hit it almost dead-center. Other photos showed that three other bullets hit the rear-left side of his SUV.

Pictured is a patrol SUV, with yellow markers indicating where it was hit by three bullets, belonging to a Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputy who was shot and injured in what authorities described as an ambush attack on Uvas Road in unincorporated Morgan Hill, near the Uvas Reservoir, on Jan. 31, 2020. (Santa Clara Co. Sheriff’s Office)
Pictured is a patrol SUV, with yellow markers indicating where it was hit by three bullets, belonging to a Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputy who was shot and injured in what authorities described as an ambush attack on Uvas Road in unincorporated Morgan Hill, near the Uvas Reservoir, on Jan. 31, 2020. (Santa Clara Co. Sheriff’s Office)

“This was absolutely a close call,” Omori said.

The shooting was reported around 10:30 p.m. Friday on Uvas Road north of Wallace Place. Afterward, a search for the shooter did not yield any suspects, though the Sheriff’s Office did offer a description of the car: A silver 2000s-era sedan, possibly a Honda. Investigators hope a member of the public might be able to lead them to the shooter.

“We’ll follow up every lead,” Smith said. “We want to bring the person or persons to justice.”

Omori, who oversees the Sheriff’s homicide and major crimes units, said Gill’s patrol SUV, in the gaze of the suspect car’s headlights, would have been very clearly visible as a Sheriff’s vehicle, and that the deputy was in full uniform.

“This was a targeted attack,” Omori said.

It was not immediately clear whether Gill’s retaliatory fire hit anyone. Gill is now at home with his family, and looks to be in good spirits considering the circumstances, Omori said.

“Given the gravity of the situation, he’s doing quite well,” he said.

All deputies and San Jose police officers have been put on high alert because of the so-called ambush. Investigators are looking at the possibility the incident was a hate crime. Smith said once the suspects are located, they will face charges of premeditated attempted murder. Omori said during the news conference that Gill is a practicing Sikh and wears a traditional headdress on duty, but that it was too early to know if the shooting had a hate-based motive.

Pictured is a patrol SUV belonging to a Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputy who was shot and injured in what authorities described as an ambush attack on Uvas Road in unincorporated Morgan Hill, near the Uvas Reservoir, on Jan. 31, 2020. (Santa Clara Co. Sheriff’s Office)
Pictured is a patrol SUV belonging to a Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputy who was shot and injured in what authorities described as an ambush attack on Uvas Road in unincorporated Morgan Hill, near the Uvas Reservoir, on Jan. 31, 2020. (Santa Clara Co. Sheriff’s Office)

“We’re looking at all possibilities,” Sheriff’s Office Detective Brandon Omori said. “Deputy Gill is a practicing Sikh and he was wearing head dress and garb. We support him and his religious affiliation.”

The sheriff’s office said it needs the public’s help to arrest the suspects, who were in an older model silver Honda Accord. Anyone with information about the shooting can contact the Sheriff’s Office at 408-808-4500, or  leave an anonymous tip at 408-808-4431.

The shooting of Deputy Sukhdeep Singh Gill has again raised concerns among the Sikh community following the murder of Sheriff’s Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal who died in September 2019 after being shot from behind during a traffic stop in Texas.

Deputy Dhaliwal made history as the first Sikh to become a sheriff’s deputy in Texas’s Harris County. He also received permission to wear his turban and beard while on patrol.

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