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San Diego officer acquitted in off-duty shooting

June 22, 2009 |  4:23 pm

A San Diego police officer today was acquitted of charges stemming from an off-duty shooting that wounded a woman and her 8-year-old son.

Officer Frank White, 29, was charged in a March 2008 "road rage" incident that occurred while White and his wife were shopping in Oceanside.

Another driver, Rachel Silva, 29, allegedly followed White and rammed her car into his in a parking lot. White identified himself as a police officer and fired five bullets into her car, striking Silva in the arm and her son in the leg, according to court papers and White's testimony.

Silva did not testify during White's trial in San Diego County Superior Court in Vista. White and his wife tearfully testified that they had feared for their lives. White said he did not know a child was in the car.

White was charged with a felony -- discharging a firearm in a negligent manner -- and a misdemeanor for brandishing a gun in an angry manner. He is on unpaid leave from the San Diego Police Department.

The jury deliberated for a day and a half. If convicted, White could have faced nine years in prison.

A police department personnel review will determine whether White will return to duty. That decision is separate from the outcome of the trial, officials said.

Silva pleaded guilty to drunk driving and child endangerment and will be sentenced in July. She was driving on a suspended license and had two prior drunk driving convictions.

Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeff Dusek, one of the county's top prosecutors, had argued that although Silva started the altercation, White overreacted and acted recklessly.

In a statement, Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis said it was appropriate to bring the charges based on the evidence "but it is the jury that ultimately decides between guilty and not guilty.

"I would like to thank the jury for its time and effort in deciding this difficult case," Dumanis said.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

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