Sheriff says gunman in California rampage that left deputy fatally wounded is confirmed dead

By Tracie Cone, AP
Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gunman dead in Calif. rampage that killed deputy

SANGER, Calif. — From her convenience store, Mary Novack looked across a highway and saw two law officers go inside the mobile home.

Then the gunfire started.

“Oh my God, somebody’s going to be dead,” Novack recalled thinking.

During the gunbattle Thursday at the mobile home in Central California, three law enforcement officials were shot, one fatally, and the suspect was killed.

Police are now trying to determine how the routine serving of a search warrant turned into a deadly daylong standoff.

The violence claimed the life of a Fresno County sheriff’s detective and left a police officer from the nearby city of Reedley in critical condition, authorities said. A Fresno County sheriff’s deputy was also wounded and listed in stable condition.

It was not immediately clear if the suspect’s injuries were self-inflicted or suffered during the barrage of bullets he exchanged with officers, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said.

He said authorities would run the fingerprints of the suspect before they could confirm his identity and release his name.

“We lost a good deputy sheriff today,” Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said.

Police didn’t immediately release the names of the two deputies and officer. But Reedley City Manager Rocky Rogers said the wounded officer, who he identified as Javier Bejar, was on life support and not expected to recover. Rogers said Bejar, who had two years on the police force, was being kept alive so that his family can pay their last respects.

“He had a very commanding presence about him, being a former U.S. Marine,” Rogers said.

Police used a robot equipped with cameras to confirm the suspect’s death Thursday evening following a tense, daylong standoff outside the home in Minkler, a tiny village in a rural section of the San Joaquin Valley, according to Dyer.

About an hour before the robot was sent in, a woman who was inside the home voluntarily came out with a dog spattered in blood, according to Dyer. Her relationship to the gunman was not immediately known and detectives were interviewing her Thursday night, Dyer said.

The bloodshed started just before 10 a.m. when two deputies and a state fire official arrived at the mobile home to serve the warrants connected to a series of arsons and a Tuesday shooting allegedly involving the gunman, Mims said.

Mims said the shooter was suspected in a recent series of suspicious fires involving sheds and other outbuildings and of randomly firing a weapon from his home on Tuesday.

Authorities had no contact with the suspect after the gun battle in which hundreds of bullets were exchanged, she said.

Jim Stone, 46, who lives about 100 feet from the mobile home, said he left the area after the shooting erupted Thursday morning.

Novack said authorities used a loudspeaker to repeatedly order someone inside the mobile home to surrender. At some point, they smashed down the door and went inside.

After the gunfire, Novack said she saw an officer on the ground.

Novack said a man and a woman lived in the mobile home located on sprawling rural property owned by another family in Minkler. They sometimes came to her store for cigarettes and soda, but Novack said she did not know their names.

The community of 30 people is located along the scenic highway to Kings Canyon National Park.

Associated Press Writer Garance Burke in Fresno contributed to this report.

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