Heroic San Diego Police Department Officer Rescues Family After Man Drives Off Cliffs

Written by Julianne Foster

In light of the tragic events surrounding George Floyd, masses of protests and riots across the nation have demanded the defunding or dismantling of police departments. The entire police force as a whole has been blamed for the one percent of police officers who abuse their authority. In the midst of all this chaos, officers are still leaving their families every day to put on their uniform and go out to protect their communities. 

One such officer is San Diego Police Department officer of the year, Jonathan Wiese. Officer Wiese has shown exceptional dedication to his community throughout his 22 years of service. Of the countless instances of his honorable behavior, perhaps the most notable has been his arrest of the 19-year-old who opened fire with an assault rifle on a Jewish Synagogue in Poway during last year’s Passover. Following what he heard over the radio, Wiese saw the suspect in his car outside of Phil’s BBQ in Rancho Bernardo and bravely made the arrest on his own, preventing any further harm from being done. 

Wiese’s heroics have continued to prove our need for police officers, as he recently saved a suicidal man and his twin two-year-old daughters. The sheriff’s department received a call from the man’s wife at around 4:30 a.m. that he had left in a truck with their twins and had plans to drive off the Coronado Bridge. Wiese recalled hearing the report over the radio: “Male subject left his house with his twin two-year-old daughters, was possibly armed with a gun and threatening suicide by driving his truck off the Coronado Bridge.”

Wiese himself has a wife, a four-year-old son, and a two-year-old daughter, which caused the situation to affect him very personally. He later explained, “I would do for the public, what I would do for [my family]. I treat everyone that way. I treat them as if they were my family down there, and that’s pretty much what happened in this case.”

The vehicle was spotted by Lt. Dave Bautista on Hill Street near Cornish Drive from where the man continued on and drove off Sunset Cliffs. Wiese’s mind was racing, hoping the man hadn’t kept his two daughters in the truck. Miraculously, the daughters had survived since the father was holding them in his lap when he drove off. If they had been in the backseat, they likely would not have survived. After the crash, the father could be seen struggling to tread water with the toddlers in his arms.

Wiese knew he couldn’t stand there and watch. He remembered the 100-foot K9 leash he had for SWAT missions, so he removed his gun belt and vest to loop the leash around his chest, tossing the other end to officers who had arrived on the scene. The truck was upside down and crashed on some rocks with the cab underwater, however, the family had managed to survive, barely able to tread above water.

Wiese climbed down the cliffs in the low light of the early morning and jumped in the water fully clothed. He could see one daughter was limp in the father’s arms while the other was clearly still alive. Wiese had experience in water survival through his training in Marine Corps boot camp and was able to get the three safely to shore. From there he put the daughter who seemed to be the most affected in a canvas bag, which they hoisted up using the same leash he used to climb down. They then used the same method to rescue the second daughter.

“That’s probably the most heroic thing I’ve seen in my 32 years,” said San Diego Police Department Police Chief David Nisleit.

As he waited with the father for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department helicopter to rescue him, Wiese recalls the man saying that he “was going to die and the girls were coming with him.” However, all three were successfully rescued and taken to the hospital where they are expected to make a full recovery. It’s unclear what charges the father is facing at this time.

Even in the midst of carrying the burdens of how police officers are being misrepresented and mistreated, Officer Wiese’s actions were heroic and justly represented the humanity, purpose, and impact of the police force in the United States.

“I didn’t do the job to be liked every day. I didn’t do it to become rich. I did it because I want to be out there making a difference and helping people, as cliche as that might sound, but I was just glad I could be there,” said Wiese. “You just do what you have to do, but after everyone was safe, it hits you and you just want to go home and hug your kids, that’s for sure.”


Photo by Alan Levine via Flickr