SAN FRANCISCO -- A California Highway Patrol officer was stabbed in the neck Tuesday morning by a 44-year-old man he and his partner confronted near a homeless encampment alongside an on-ramp to Interstate 80 in San Francisco's Rincon Hill neighborhood, police said.
The officer, a seven-year CHP veteran, was stabbed near the Essex Street on-ramp and taken to San Francisco General Hospital with life-threatening injuries, police said. Hospital spokesman Brent Andrew said in the afternoon that the officer was in critical condition. San Francisco police said as of 5 p.m. he was out of surgery and in stable condition.
His attacker, Noel Corpuz, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, aggravated assault and resisting arrest, police said.
"This type of incident just really shocks us," CHP Commander Christopher Sherry told media Tuesday. "These officers, our officers, and all of law enforcement go out and put themselves in harm's way. It's a tough job. Sometimes, as we all know, things like this happen and we just hope the best for our officer."
The CHP went to the scene about 9:30 a.m. to investigate a report of a pedestrian walking on the I-80 on-ramp, Sherry said. Around 10:05 a.m., two officers encountered an apparent homeless man near a tent encampment alongside a roadway in the area, police said.
Corpuz suddenly attacked one of the officers with a large knife, stabbing him in the neck and arm before running away, CHP officials said. The uninjured officer ran after him to the bottom of the on-ramp, but realized his partner was not with him and turned around to see that he had suffered "pretty significant injuries," then went back to provide first aid, Sherry said.
A CHP officer made a distress call to San Francisco Police asking for backup at Harrison and Essex Streets around 10:10 a.m. A description of Corpuz was sent to all responding officers as they set up a perimeter to search for him, police said.
San Francisco Fire personnel took the stabbed officer to the hospital, police said.
Corpuz walked into a Wells Fargo Bank on Fourth Street about 10:20 a.m. When San Francisco police found him outside of the bank, he initially resisted arrest and tried to take an officer's gun from the holster, police said. He was eventually taken into custody.
A black backpack and a large knife were recovered in the bank parking lot, police said.
Corpuz was placed in the rear of a police car, and then removed when witnesses were brought to the scene to identify him as the man who stabbed the officer.
Corpuz was dressed in a long-sleeved blue shirt and ragged jeans with writing scrawled in red paint on the left leg, and sported a hoop earring and a necklace.
The off-ramp and on-ramps to I-80 near Fourth and Bryant streets and Third and Essex streets were closed while police investigated, officials said.
The stabbing happened about a mile from where Super Bowl City festivities are taking place along the Embarcadero. Scores of police on patrol in the downtown area quickly responded to the calls of a fellow officer in distress.
Dhansukh Modi, 38, said he was sitting in his car near the Fourth Street Wells Fargo branch when police swarmed the area. He said a police officer pulled a gun on the suspect and then chased him on foot around the parking lot before taking him into custody.
"The scene was very horrible for me. I was very scared," said Modi, who sought refuge in a nearby Starbucks. "All the cops came. I knew something was wrong."
German Lara, 36, who works at an auto shop nearby, heard the sirens and came out to see what was going on. He said he stopped in his tracks when he saw five police cars roll down Fourth Street with their sirens blaring.
"Once you see the bomb squad and guys with fully automatic weapons drawn, you don't want to get too close," he said, describing the chaotic and tense scene.
San Francisco Police opened an investigation into the attack and asked that anyone with more information call the anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or text tips to TIP411, beginning the message with SFPD.
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