EL CAJON, Calif. July 23 2017 — After watching in terror as a man violently attacked a police officer in an El Cajon fast-food restaurant, Iesha Booker checked for a pulse on the bloody, unconscious officer and yelled into the radio on his belt.
“I just grabbed it and kept screaming in there that they have an officer down, they have an officer down,” she told reporters Wednesday. “I hoped they heard me because I didn’t know how to work the walkie-talkie.”
Booker said she kept repeating that the officer was down — eventually pulling the radio off his belt — until she heard a dispatcher say they were sending help.
“I did the best I (could) to try to help him,” she said.
The attack Monday morning inside the KFC restaurant on Fletcher Parkway left the officer, a 28-year veteran, hospitalized with significant head trauma. The department has not identified him.
Booker said the attack lasted at least six minutes and that the suspect kept hitting the officer even after he was unconscious.
Daniel Moses Cook, 42, was arrested nearby. Police said they used a Taser on him after he squared off and took a fighting stance toward approaching officers.
Cook was supposed to be arraigned in El Cajon Superior Court Wednesday afternoon but he refused to leave his cell, Deputy District Attorney Jeff Lazar said. The hearing was rescheduled for Thursday.
Cook is charged with assault on a police officer, resisting a police officer with force, robbery, possession of methamphetamine and being under the influence of meth. He also faces added allegations of causing bodily injury to the officer.
State prison records show Cook was released from prison in June after he was convicted of resisting and deterring an officer with threats and violence. Cook also was convicted in 2001 for assault with a deadly weapon and making a terrorist threat and in 2014 for inflicting corporal injury on a spouse.
Booker, 34, who has driven a MTS bus for the past three years, had stopped at the KFC for her lunch break. She didn’t know police were searching for a robbery suspect in the area. She talked briefly with the man, who was seated at a corner table, complaining to him about the floors and tables being untidy.
“He was just like, ‘Yeah,’ ” she said. “I didn’t know he was in trouble or anything.”
When the officer entered the KFC, he went to talk to the man, who didn’t respond, Booker said. Then he stood up, crossed his arms over his chest and pushed the officer backward before hitting him.
The officer seemed surprised by the attack, Booker said. The assailant, who she described as large and strong, seemed to be a trained fighter.
She said the officer tried to fight back, but the man kept up his violent assault. The officer never pulled his gun or Taser, she said.
“I seen the officer stop and think, like, what to do,” she said. “I feel like at that moment he could have done what he needed to protect himself.
“But because we were there, he thought and he just went ahead and tried to struggle him back” instead of pulling his weapon, she said.
Booker said the assailant pushed the officer to the ground and started “slamming on his face, really violently.”
Customers and employees were screaming and running for cover, sending tables and chairs flying. “Everybody was screaming ‘Stop! You’re hitting an officer.’ We all were panicking,” she said.
Booker, who has seven children, has been living in hotels and staying with friends since Memorial Day after the house she was renting was sold.
She told her older kids about what happened Monday and they told her she was a “superhero Mom.”
The San Diego Union-Tribune