Suspected shooter apprehended attempting to cross border


Officers from the El Centro Police Department responded to a report of shots fired Tuesday, April 25, at 6:47 a.m., at 6th and State streets. Several calls were received indicating several male subjects were arguing and at least one male had fired a handgun at another male before leaving the area in a white vehicle.

Officers and detectives worked diligently throughout the day to gather evidence and identify the individuals involved with this incident.

After the detectives identified the vehicle and the individuals involved in the shooting, they located the vehicle at a residence in El Centro. Surveillance was conducted on the vehicle throughout the morning hours. The suspect in the shooting, identified as Mario Vasquez, a 20 year‐old resident of El Centro, was seen entering the vehicle and driving away.

Detectives attempted to follow the vehicle; however, the vehicle was temporarily lost in traffic. Vasquez and the vehicle ultimately were detained by Mexican authorities as he attempted to enter Mexico. Vasquez was turned over to El Centro detectives.

At 1:38 p.m., while patrolling the area of 6th and State streets an officer located another individual involved in the initial altercation and the victim of the shooting . The male, Johnny Lee Degeeter, a 33 year‐old resident of El Centro, got into a vehicle and left the area. The officer followed the vehicle and attempted to make a traffic stop to gather additional information. Degeeter fled from the vehicle on foot in the area of 4th Street and Lenrey Avenue.

Degeeter discarded a handgun, which was later recovered by officers, as he ran from the officer and a perimeter was established in the immediate area with the assistance of officers from the California Highway Patrol and the Imperial Police Department. Officers from the various agencies began a yard‐to‐ yard search for Degeeter. Schools in the area were contacted and placed on lockdown for safety purposes while the search continued.

Degeeter was located at 2:30 p.m. as he ran through yards while fleeing from officers. He was arrested in the 400 block of Lenrey Avenue. Degeeter was booked at the county jail and faces charges of resisting and delaying a police officer, felon in possession of a handgun and assault with a deadly weapon. It was discovered during the booking process that Degeeter had been shot in the buttocks; however, he claimed a knife he had located in his rear pocket stopped the bullet from penetrating his skin.

Detectives worked through the night obtaining search warrants for two vehicles and two residences. The search led to the discovery of the clothing worn by Vasquez during the shooting and a handgun matching the caliber and description of the one that was used to shoot Degeeter. Further testing will be conducted to confirm the match. Detectives also located clothing worn by Degeeter during the shooting which contained a hole consistent with the statement that he had been shot.

Robert Sawyer, El Centro Police Commander issued a statement saying, “We are grateful for all of the assistance we received from the community and other law enforcement professionals throughout this investigation. I have no doubt that had it not been for the assistance from the community we would not have been able to solve this case as quickly as we did. Those key partnerships provide us the ability to protect and serve.”