Deputy lucky to be alive after 'ambush' attack in Morgan Hill

Santa Clara County sheriff’s officials said one of their own is lucky to be alive after an ambush attack that led to shots fired.

In a radio recording played for reporters at the sheriff’s headquarters in San Jose Monday afternoon, a deputy can be heard yelling “shots fired,” several times. The frantic call came in late Friday night, as Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Deputy Sukhdeep Gill struggled for his life. Investigators said the four-year veteran was on routine patrol in unincorporated Morgan Hill, near Uvas Reservoir when bullets started whizzing at him.

“Our deputy was outside of his vehicle not on a stop. Not contacting any subjects. And it basically was out of the blue,” said Lt. Brenden Omori, who heads the department’s Major Crimes Unit.

He said at least one suspect in an approaching car fired at least four shots. Three hit Gill’s department-issued vehicle. The fourth hit him in his body-worn camera, right in the middle of his chest. Gill returned fire as he moved for cover, and radioed for help.

“There were multiple shots. With the one striking him, he was very lucky. But any one of those rounds could have hit him anywhere. He was very lucky. He was very brave under fire,” said Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith. 

Officials said Gill is a practicing Sikh and he wears a traditional turban. Investigators say they’re looking at the incident possibly being a hate crime, or a crime of opportunity against a lone deputy in the dark, who was partially saved by his body-worn camera.

“We do know the bullet was stopped by a combination of the body cam, and the body armor,” said Omori.

Gill was not seriously injured in the attack, and officials say is anxious to return to work. The Major Crimes Unit is searching for the suspects in the case, said to be driving a silver-colored sedan, possibly a 2000 Honda.

“We do wanna capture this individual and hold them accountable for this unprovoked attack,” said Omori.

The damaged body-worn camera is now evidence, and proof, that every piece of equipment is potentially life-saving equipment.