Gustavo Perez

Suspect in shooting of Newman cop arrested near Bakersfield

A man who allegedly shot and killed a police officer in Central California Wednesday and prompted a search alert in Santa Clara County was arrested early this morning near Bakersfield, Kern County sheriff’s officials announced.

Newman police Cpl. Ronil Singh was killed during a traffic stop at Merced Street and Eucalyptus Avenue in the city of Newman, according to Stanislaus County sheriff’s officials.

Singh was a 33-year-old Fiji native and had been with the Newman Police Department since 2011. Sheriff’s officials said he initiated the traffic stop for suspected drunk driving at 12:57 a.m. and reported “shots fired” over the radio moments later. He was found at the scene with gunshot wounds and died at a hospital.

The suspect, since identified as 32-year-old Gustavo Perez Arriaga, fled the area and law enforcement didn’t know where he went. The California Highway Patrol issued a “blue alert” in five counties, including Santa Clara, and law enforcement began a statewide effort to locate Arriaga.

“We have spared no expense, we will relentlessly continue to hunt our suspect down and bring him to justice,” Sheriff Adam Christianson of Stanislaus County said on Thursday.

At about 4 p.m. that day, Christianson contacted Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood to notify him the suspect was believed to be between Modesto and Bakersfield, headed toward Mexico.

Deputies in Kern County began surveilling Arriaga and located him at a home in the 8200 block of Brooks Road near the unincorporated town of Lamont early this morning. After officers served a warrant and a SWAT team arrived, Arriaga emerged from the house with his hands in the air and surrendered himself to deputies, Youngblood said at a news conference in Kern County today.

Three other Bakersfield residents at the house were arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting: Bernabe Madrigal Castaneda, 59, Erasmo Villegas, 36, Maria Luisa Moreno, 57. Two other men, 25-year-old Adrian Virgen and 27-year-old Erik Razo Quiroz were arrested Thursday on suspicion of being accessories to a felony and more arrests may be made.

According to Newman police, Arriaga was residing in the United States illegally. Youngblood said Arriaga’s status still needs to be confirmed, and the loss of a police officer’s life is the priority in this case.

“His immigration status is secondary, however it’s extremely important that we get there and confirm whether the person had a right to be in this country or not,” Youngblood said.

President Donald Trump leveraged the killing to promote his border wall plan on Thursday, tweeting, “There is right now a full scale manhunt going on in California for an illegal immigrant accused of shooting and killing a police officer during a traffic stop. Time to get tough on Border Security. Build the Wall!”

Youngblood emphasized his opposition to sanctuary county laws that limit deputies from sharing information with federal authorities and said law enforcement in California have an extremely good network of communication.

“When you use a firearm against a police officer, you can run but you can’t hide,” Youngblood said. “When you attack someone who’s doing an honorable profession, no stone goes unturned.”

The Stanislaus County sheriff’s office has created an official donation page at https://bit.ly/2LDVO6z to raise money for Singh’s family.

Singh had been on track to lead the Police Department one day, Newman Police Chief Randy Richardson said, and was a proud officer who did everything he could to improve at his job.

“He was a police officer, but more importantly he was a human being, and that’s how he would want to be remembered,” Richardson said.

-Supriya Yelimeli, Bay City News

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