Sheriff blames sanctuary law for California officer’s death – Suspected police killer planned to flee to Mexico

This booking photo provided by the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department shows Gustavo Perez Arriaga. Perez Arriaga, suspected of gunning down a California policeman, was in the U.S. illegally and was captured while planning to flee to his native Mexico, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson announced, Friday, Dec. 28, 2018, as he all but blamed the state's sanctuary law for the officer's death. (Courtesy of Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department via AP)

By OLGA R. RODRIGUEZ and JOCELYN GECKER,  Associated Press   SAN FRANCISCO (AP) 12/29 — A man suspected of gunning down a California policeman was in the U.S. illegally and was captured while planning to flee to his native Mexico, a sheriff announced as he all but blamed the state’s sanctuary law for the officer’s death.

A two-day statewide manhunt ended Friday with the arrest of Gustavo Perez Arriaga, who came out with his hands up as a SWAT team prepared to raid a home in Bakersfield, California. That was about 200 miles (320 kilometers) southeast of where Cpl. Ronil Singh was shot before dawn Wednesday.

Singh had stopped a suspected drunken driver in the town of Newman when he was fatally wounded and managed to fire back but didn’t hit his attacker, authorities have said.

This undated file photo provided by the Newman Police Department shows officer Ronil Singh who was killed on duty conducting a traffic stop early Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018, in the town of Newman, Calif. A suspected drunk driver accused of fatally shooting Singh who pulled him over was captured Friday, Dec. 28, as he tried to flee back to Mexico, where he lived before illegally crossing into the U.S., authorities said. (Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department via AP, File)

 

Perez Arriaga was taken into custody using the slain officer’s handcuffs, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said.

Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson, who led the investigation, blamed California’s sanctuary law for preventing local authorities from reporting Perez Arriaga to U.S. immigration officials for deportation after two previous drunken driving arrests.

“We can’t ignore the fact that this could have been preventable,” Christianson told reporters, asking why the state was “providing sanctuary for criminals (and) gang members. It’s a conversation we need to have.”

Christianson called for stricter laws at a news conference as Singh’s brother wept beside him.

Perez Arriaga crossed the border in Arizona several years ago and had worked a variety of jobs as a laborer, including at several dairies. The 33-year-old had gang affiliations and multiple Facebook pages with different names, Christianson said.

The shooting came amid an intense political fight over immigration, with President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats at odds over funding for a border wall that has forced a partial government shutdown.

Trump tweeted about Singh’s killing Thursday, saying it was “time to get tough on Border Security. Build the Wall!”

California’s sanctuary law limits cooperation between local authorities and U.S. immigration officials and has drawn scorn from the Trump administration. It includes more than 800 exceptions for violent crimes and felonies and bars police from asking people about their citizenship status.

Reggie Singh, brother of Newman Police officer Ronil Singh is overcome with emotion as he thanks law enforcement after the arrest of suspect Gustavo Perez Arriaga and others Friday, Dec. 28, 2018 during a news conference at the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s department in Modesto, Calif. Newman Police chief Randy Richardson and Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson are also pictured. (Joan Barnett Lee/The Modesto Bee via AP)

 

Gov. Jerry Brown has said the law strikes a balance between protecting families and ensuring consequences for serious criminals. His spokesman said Friday that if the suspect was a known gang member, police could have provided that information to federal authorities.

“California law fully permits the sharing of information on dangerous gang members,” spokesman Evan Westrup said.

A federal judge upheld the law earlier this year after a challenge by the Trump administration.

Former state Sen. Kevin de Leon, the Democrat who wrote the legislation, said it’s unfair to blame the law for the officer’s death.

Christianson, who was at a meeting with Trump and slams California’s law in a video posted by the White House in May, said the measure prohibited his department from sharing Perez Arriaga’s gang ties, “other active warrants” and past DUI arrests with federal immigration authorities. He didn’t give details on the other warrants.

That suggests law enforcement could have apprehended Perez Arriaga previously, de Leon said.

“He should’ve been in the physical custody of law enforcement,” de Leon said. To blame the law “is highly irresponsible.”

De Leon also told KNX-AM radio in Los Angeles that the sheriff was politicizing a tragedy and actually harming police work.

“The type of tone and attitude that Sheriff Christianson has taken instills fear and panic in all immigrant communities” that could make people afraid to report crimes, de Leon said.

Authorities also arrested five other people, including Perez Arriaga’s brother, 25-year-old Adrian Virgen, and a co-worker, 27-year-old Erik Razo Quiroz, who lied to police to try to protect him, Christianson said. Both men also were in the country illegally, he said.

This undated photo released by the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department shows Erik Razo Quiroz. Gustavo Perez Arriaga, the man accused of killing a California police officer who pulled him over to investigate if he was driving drunk, was captured Friday, Dec. 28, 2018, as he tried to flee to Mexico, authorities said. Authorities also arrested Perez Arriaga’s brother, Adrian Virgen, and a co-worker, Razo Quiroz, who lied to police to try to protect him, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said. (Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department via AP)

 

This undated photo released by the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department shows Adrian Virgen. Gustavo Perez Arriaga, the man accused of killing a California police officer who pulled him over to investigate if he was driving drunk, was captured Friday, Dec. 28, 2018, as he tried to flee to Mexico, authorities said. Authorities also arrested Perez Arriaga’s brother, Virgen, and a co-worker, Erik Razo Quiroz, who lied to police to try to protect him, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said. (Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department via AP)

Three people also were arrested at the home near Bakersfield for helping Perez Arriaga, Youngblood said.

The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department later reported the additional arrests of Perez Arriaga’s girlfriend, 30-year-old Ana Leyde Cervantes of Newman and Perez Arriaga’s brother, 34-year-old Conrado Virgen Mendoza of Chowchilla. Cervantes was arrested in in Turlock, and Virgen Mendoza was arrested in Livermore.

The 33-year-old officer was an immigrant, too, arriving legally from his native Fiji to fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer, authorities said. Singh had a newborn son and joined the 12-officer Newman police force in 2011.

Newman Police Chief Randy Richardson called Singh a patriot.

“This is a man that loved his country. This is a man that worked hard for what he believed in. He believed in this community,” the chief said at a community vigil Friday night honoring the officer.

Residents, friends, relatives and fellow officers held back tears as they eulogized Singh during the candlelight memorial.

___

Associated Press writers Daisy Nguyen in San Francisco, Amanda Lee Myers in Los Angeles and Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento contributed to this report.

 

https://www.apnews.com/22f90a6f50c14154a54fd01171a6034b

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Posted in: Arrests, Attacks on Police, Border Control, Crime & Criminals, Crime Prevention, Deportation, DHS, DUI/DWI, Fugitives, Gangs, Homicide, Illegal Immigration, Line-of-Duty Deaths, Officer Safety, Police Officers Shot, Policies & Practices, Public Policy, Public Safety, Sanctuary Cities/States, Sheriffs, Shootings, SWAT, Victims of Crime

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