The shooting happened at around 11 p.m. local time (2 a.m. ET Friday) in the Southcrest neighborhood, San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman told reporters early Friday outside Scripps Mercy Hospital.
The officers — both assigned to the department's gang unit — had just pulled over a car when, almost immediately after, they called for emergency cover, Zimmerman said. It was not immediately clear if the cops were in uniform or in a marked patrol car at the time.
"Other officers were in the area. They arrived shortly on scene and found both of our officers suffering from gunshot wounds," she added.
They were not immediately identified pending notification of next of kin, but Zimmerman said the deceased officer was a husband and father of two.
The suspect, described as an Hispanic male, was caught near the scene of the shooting and was taken to the hospital for a gunshot wound, police said.
Sources told NBC News that he and other suspects may belong to a local gang and there was no early indication that the officers were specifically targeted as in recent police ambush attacks in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Zimmerman said the investigation into the shooting was ongoing, and that the department was "heartbroken" and would be mourning the officer who died.
"They're out there every day like all of our officers trying to make sure that our great citizens are kept safe," the police chief said, "and that's what they were doing tonight."
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer condemned the shooting, tweeting that officers in the city need the community's support.
"Violence against the men and women who wear the badge is violence against us all," he wrote.