'I’ve been hit!': CHP officer describes dramatic Paso Robles gunfight in court

CHP Officer Adrian Ayala demonstrates in court Thursday, Jan. 9, how he searched for a fugitive with a flashlight.
CHP Officer Adrian Ayala demonstrates in court Thursday, Jan. 9, how he searched for a fugitive with a flashlight.

Figuring he’d already suffered fatal gunshot wounds, a CHP officer steeled his nerves and moved toward the person shooting at him, returning fire from his own semi-automatic pistol.

That intense gunbattle, rivaling a scene from the Old West, was detailed in court Thursday by the officer, Adrian Ayala, 31. His alleged assailant, Clifford Scott, 23, of San Diego, is charged with attempting to murder Ayala, who was hit by three bullets during the early morning of Oct. 27, 2012.

“I was so covered in blood, I felt I had additional wounds,” Ayala told the jury.

Scott, who faces multiple counts related to the incident, has pleaded not guilty.

Although no other officers witnessed the shootout, Ayala’s testimony described a short but dramatic shootout.

Ayala had just started his shift around 5:30 a.m. that day when fellow CHP officer Michael Muell requested backup for a traffic stop in Paso Robles. Muell had stopped a Camaro for speeding and, as he directed the driver to exit the car, noticed the front passenger was acting suspiciously.

“If I moved, he watched every move I made, and it made me very nervous,” Muell testified.

Just as Ayala arrived, Muell said, Scott jumped into the driver’s seat and sped off. Ayala, his wheels still rolling, peeled out in pursuit.

After Scott crashed into a tree on 13th Street, he fled on foot, said Ayala, who ran after him.

Ayala testified that he wasn’t able to catch Scott, so he returned to his car. On a hunch, he drove to an alley he thought Scott might have run to and parked his car in front of some dumpsters.

Ayala said he exited the vehicle and saw motion in one of the dumpsters, leading him to shout, “Come out or you’re gonna get tased.”

The man in the dumpster said he’d comply, Ayala said.

“The first thing that I saw come up over the edge was a gun,” Ayala said. “It is pointed almost directly at my head.”

Shots rang out “continuously — bang, bang, bang, bang,” he said. “As soon as I saw the gun, I could process what was going on at an abnormal rate,” he said. “I just couldn’t react fast enough to avoid it.”

Ayala, a Shandon native who testified while wearing his CHP uniform, was calm and collected as he described the gunfight that ensued.

The first bullet hit his torso, he said. He was protected by a bulletproof vest, but he said the pain was so intense, he assumed the bullet had gone through him. He knew he had been hit elsewhere, but he didn’t know where.

Initially, Ayala shot at the suspect with a Taser, but that didn’t work. So, as he was being fired on, he tried to put distance between himself and the shooter. As he did, he said, Scott crawled out of the dumpster and fell to the ground. During that instant, Ayala said, he drew his own gun.

“Once I drew my pistol, I felt I had equalized myself with the suspect,” he said. “We were both armed with pistols.”

Assuming he wouldn’t survive his injuries, Ayala said he began to move toward the suspect.

“He begins to flee,” he said.

At one point, Ayala said, his 11-bullet magazine emptied, and he had to re-load. After firing more rounds, he realized stray bullets could hit nearby homes. So he steadied himself, aimed for the largest part of the suspect’s body and fired one last time.

The suspect threw his pistol and announced that he was done, Ayala said.

Ayala, who has been a CHP officer for seven years, was going to handcuff the suspect when he realized both his left hand and right arm were bloodied from two gunshot wounds.

The bullet that hit Ayala’s left hand had actually deflected off his flashlight, which he displayed to jurors in court Thursday.

“I’ve been hit!” he shouted to the other officers arriving on the scene.

As the officers handcuffed Scott, Ayala walked to the side of the road and sat on a curb. His shirt and pants were covered in blood.

“I told him, ‘You’re gonna make it. You’re gonna make it,’ ” testified David Agredano, a fellow CHP officer who lives across the street from Ayala.

While riding with Ayala in the ambulance, Agredano called Ayala’s wife. He said the two didn’t talk about the shooting, noting that he was “just happy that he was alive.”

Ayala’s torso was bruised, but the vest prevented that bullet from penetrating his skin. Scott had been struck by multiple bullets as well.

Through questioning, Scott’s attorney, Linden Mackaoui, suggested that Scott might have been disoriented or confused from the crash, which caused the Camaro’s air bag to deploy.

He also asked Ayala whether he commanded the suspect to come out of the dumpster with his arms raised, which he had not.

Mackaoui will detail his defense during his opening statement. Meanwhile, he will continue to cross-examine Ayala on Friday.

The District Attorney’s Office alleges that Scott was a gang member who was carrying cocaine at the time of the incident.