NEWMAN, Calif. – A man suspected of killing police officer Ronil Singh this week in Newman, California, has been arrested, Deputy Blake Edwards with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office said Friday.
The suspect was identified as Gustavo Perez Arriaga, 33, according to Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson. Arriaga was at a Kern County home upon being arrested, Christianson said. Kern County is about 200 miles south of where the shooting occurred.
Singh, 33, pulled over the suspect just before 1 a.m. Wednesday and a few moments later called out “shot fired” over the radio.
Other officers found Singh shot and took him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said. Singh was a native of Fiji and joined the force in July 2011.
Newman Police Chief Randy Richardson said at a Friday news conference that this has never happened in the history of the 12-member department.
“This is new for our department,” Richardson said.
The lead agency on the investigation, the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, was joined at the news conference by members of Singh’s family. Singh’s brother, Reggie, thanked officers through sobs.
“Ronil Singh was my older brother. Yes, he’s not coming back, but there’s a lot of people out there that misses him,” Reggie said. Referring to the arrest, he said, “I was waiting for this to happen. I’d like to thank you working day and night to make this happen.”
Suspect was fleeing to Mexico, sheriff says
Arriaga came to the United States illegally and was believed to have been fleeing to Mexico, Christianson said. The sheriff elaborated on Arriaga’s history, explaining that he was arrested twice previously for DUIs and has known gang affiliation.
Arriaga’s brother, Adrian Virgen, 25, and coworker, Erik Razo Quiroz, 32, were arrested Thursday for accessory after the fact to a felony. Virgen was arrested in Hanford and Quiroz in Modesto, Christianson said.
He said they were trying to protect Arriaga, who was trying to go to Mexico.
“That was his goal, to get across the border,” he said.
Christianson said Virgen and Quiroz were also in the United States illegally.
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said two men and a woman were arrested at the same home where Arriaga was found for aiding and abetting the suspect.
The Kern County Sheriff’s Office identified the three as Bernabe Madrigal Castaneda, 59; Erasmo Villegas, 36; and Maria Luisa Moreno, 57.
Youngblood said he could not confirm whether the three were in the country illegally.
Detectives also arrested Gustavo Arriaga’s girlfriend and another of his brothers, accusing them of helping Arriaga evade police.
The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department identified them as Ana Leyde Cervantes, 30, and Conrado Virgin Mendoza, 34. Cervantes was arrested in Turlock and Mendoza in Livermore.
Youngblood also added that handcuffs owned by Singh were used in Arriaga’s arrest.
“Officer Singh’s handcuffs were brought down, and they’re on that guy for his trip home,” Youngblood said.
At the news conference Friday, Christianson had strong words about immigration and border security.
“We can’t ignore the fact that this could’ve been preventable,” he said, adding that California Senate Bill 54 — which became law last year — prohibited his department “from sharing any information with ICE about this criminal gang member.”
SB 54 bars law enforcement from detaining a person due to a hold request, responding to federal immigration enforcement’s requests for notification or providing information about a person’s release date unless that’s already available publicly.
The bill contains some exceptions, allowing local agencies to transfer individuals to federal immigration authorities if there is a judicial warrant or if the person has been previously convicted of a violent felony. It also requires notification to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement of scheduled releases of people who have been convicted of violent felonies.
“This is a criminal illegal alien with prior criminal activity that should have been reported to ICE,” Christianson said. “Law enforcement was prohibited because of sanctuary laws and that led to the encounter with Officer Singh. I’m suggesting that the outcome could have been different if law enforcement wasn’t restricted, prohibited or had their hands tied because of political interference.”
Youngblood also chimed in about immigration legislation. He said he asked the county to declare Kern a non-sanctuary county.
“When you tie our hands and don’t allow us to work with our federal partners and communicate with our federal partners about people who commit crimes and who are in this country illegally, we’re going to have incidents like this, not just on police officers, but on the public that we serve and protect,” he said.