Former UC San Diego grad student pleads guilty to shooting CHP officer on I-8

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

A man who tried to grab a California Highway Patrol officer’s gun during an altercation on Interstate 8 in Mission Valley, leaving the lawman with a gunshot to a leg, pleaded guilty this week to attempted murder and attempting to take a firearm from a peace officer performing his duties.

Yuhao Du, 26, is set to be sentenced later this year for lunging for CHP Officer Antonio “Tony” Pacheco’s service weapon on April 27, 2022, causing the gun to discharge as the two men grappled over the pistol.

Du previously pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but withdrew that plea on Tuesday.

At a preliminary hearing held in late 2022, a CHP investigator who interviewed Du testified that the defendant stated he was suffering from mental health issues that left him hospitalized on numerous occasions leading up to the shooting, and that voices in his head commanded him to crash his car into the center median of the freeway.

Du, a graduate student who was studying physics at UC San Diego, crashed his vehicle at about 6:15 p.m. on April 27 on eastbound Interstate 8 near the I-805 overpass, according to the CHP.

A short time later, Pacheco pulled over alongside the freeway at the site of the crash and spoke with Du, who was standing outside his car near the center median.

Pacheco testified that Du was not responsive to questions and with a “thousand-yard stare,” the defendant “appeared as if he was staring right through me.”

The officer said that after some time, Du stated, “I want to kill myself” then asked, “Can you kill me?”

Suspecting that Du might be under the influence, Pacheco said he reached for his radio to summon an ambulance when Du lunged at him and grabbed for his service weapon.

Pacheco testified that both of Du’s hands were clamped on his holstered pistol. In order to get him to loosen his grasp, Pacheco punched Du four times “as hard as I could,” to no avail.

“I was convinced he was going to use that gun on me,” Pacheco testified.

The gun discharged while still holstered in Pacheco’s belt and the bullet passed through his right thigh. In addition to the gunshot wound, Pacheco tore a tendon in his hand while punching Du and had to be hospitalized multiple times for blood clots in his lungs and leg, he testified.

After the shooting, passing motorists stopped at the scene and restrained Du until other officers arrived and arrested him.

Du is scheduled for sentencing on May 22.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.