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SAN DIEGO – The bond between 85-year-old Sergio Muñoz and his son-in-law ran deep, going back some 30 years ago when the two made a daring boat escape from Cuba and created new lives in Chicago.
In a murderous twist, the lives of both men have ended together. Investigators say Miguel Gonzalez, 58, beat to death his father-in-law and then died from a gunshot wound when officers confronted him at his El Cerrito home yesterday.
It was unclear whether Gonzalez, who was armed with a gun during the police encounter, shot himself or was killed by an officer's gunshot.
“I can't believe this happened,” said neighbor Lizeth Pinedo, 15, who recalled Muñoz as a grandfatherly figure who often swept the sidewalks and hosted visitors on his front porch.
He earned pocket money by working part time at a coin laundry down the street. “The guy who killed him – they were really close to each other. They'd go everywhere together,” she said.
Police discovered Muñoz's body at his Sherman Heights apartment at 25th and G streets about 7 a.m. yesterday after his daughter asked officers to check on him, San Diego homicide Lt. Terry McManus said.
The daughter told police that she was worried because Gonzalez, her estranged husband, had recently threatened to harm her family.
McManus said Muñoz sustained head injuries in the fatal attack.
“He always had a smile on his face,” said Muñoz's neighbor B.J. West, who runs a hair and art studio next door. “He was the heart of this corner.”
About an hour later, officers went to Gonzalez's home on 55th Street near El Cajon Boulevard and found a man matching his description sitting on the front stoop, talking on a cell phone and smoking a cigarette, acting investigations Capt. Jorge Duran said.
At the sight of the police, Gonzalez quickly reached between his legs and turned toward the officers. The movement was then followed by the sound of a single gunshot, McManus said.
“They heard one round fired from the gun, and one officer returned fire,” Duran said.
Gonzalez was able to run inside the small gray house where officers found him dead in the front room. A gun was next to the body.
“We don't know if he shot himself or if we shot him,” Duran said.
An autopsy is scheduled for today.
Neighbor Marqueeta Mordecai, 20, said she went to get laundry out of her car sometime after 8 a.m. and saw officers with their guns drawn. They were using her car as cover as more officers arrived, Mordecai said.
She went back inside her second-floor apartment and saw an officer with a handgun lying or crouching on the sidewalk and another with a rifle. She said she heard at least three shots.
Mordecai said she heard one of the officers say, “Pretty sure I got him.”
The officer's name was not released. He has been with the department for two years.
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