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PORT HUENEME, Calif. -- A Port Hueneme police officer shot and wounded during a traffic stop was recovering Friday at a local hospital, authorities said.
Officer Jesus Chavez, 35, was shot in the leg late Thursday when a zip gun a suspect was carrying dropped onto the ground and discharged during a struggle.
The five-year department veteran was in stable condition Friday after the shooting, and Port Hueneme Police Chief Fernando Estrella said the officer could be back to work in two months.
As far as police and city officials can remember, Chavez could be the first Port Hueneme police officer shot in the department's 60-year history.
"We're just thankful everything's going to turn out OK," said Estrella. "He's a good man."
The shooting occurred when Chavez was alone on patrol in the 2600 block of Spinnaker Avenue in Port Hueneme about 10:18 p.m. Thursday.
The suspect, Daniel Eugene Senters, was riding a bicycle without lights and acting suspicious in a nearby alley, so Chavez stopped him for a minor traffic violation, police Sgt. Peter Freiberg said.
After Chavez made contact with Senters, the 35-year-old Port Hueneme man struggled, Cmdr. Jerry Beck said. Senters had a cylindrical, single-shot firearm known as a zip gun, and during the struggle it dropped to the ground and fired, police said. The bullet struck Chavez just below his knee.
Investigators Friday were still trying to determine exactly how the gun dropped to the ground and fired. They had not fully interviewed Chavez, who was receiving pain medication, police said.
After he was shot, Chavez was unable to stand, but he managed to keep Senters detained at gunpoint, police said. Two local men came to the officer's aid after the shooting, and police arrested Senters when they arrived shortly afterward.
Chavez was taken to St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard. Senters was booked into Ventura County Jail, where he was being held Friday in lieu of $50,000 bail. He could face charges including being a felon in possession of a firearm, carrying a concealed weapon, possessing a deadly weapon, carrying a loaded firearm, committing battery on an officer and possessing a controlled substance, police said.
Senters has previous convictions for felony drug and weapons violations in Ventura County, according to police and court records.
Chavez's law enforcement colleagues and Port Hueneme city leaders were shocked by the shooting and relieved his wound wasn't worse.
"It's like getting kicked in the gut," said Beck, who was waiting at St. John's for an ill relative when Chavez was brought into the emergency room. "When something like this happens, it's like it's happening to a family member."
Oxnard police Detective Mike Marostica was on duty Thursday night when he heard the shooting reported over the radio. "To hear an officer ask for help on the radio because he's been shot is definitely not something we ever forget," said Marostica, president of the Peace Officers Association of Ventura County. "Part of you can't help but think - that could be me."
According to Marostica and others, it's been two years since a police officer was shot in Ventura County. Oxnard Officer Michael Purdy and Sgt. Jack Kujawa were seriously injured in a shootout with an El Rio man during a traffic stop in July 2006.
Port Hueneme leaders wished Chavez a speedy recovery. "We hope this kind of thing never happens again," said Councilman Jonathan Sharkey.