SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The man accused of killing a California police officer who pulled him over to investigate if he was driving drunk was captured Friday as he tried to flee to Mexico, authorities said.
Gustavo Perez Arriaga was arrested in Bakersfield in connection with Wednesday’s shooting of Cpl. Ronil Singh of the tiny Newman Police Department, said Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson, whose agency is leading the investigation.
The sheriff told reporters that Perez Arriaga was in the country illegally after crossing the border in Arizona and had two prior arrests for driving while intoxicated. Christianson didn’t say when the 33-year-old came to the U.S. but that the Mexico native has been living here for several years.
The sheriff said Perez Arriaga has gang affiliations and multiple Facebook pages with different names.
Authorities also arrested Perez Arriaga’s brother, Adrian Virgen, 25, and a co-worker, Erik Razo Quiroz, 32, who lied to police to try to protect him, Christianson said.
The sheriff blamed California’s sanctuary law for preventing local authorities from reporting Perez Arriaga to federal immigration officials for his previous arrests, adding that if had been deported, Singh would still be alive.
Christianson spoke at the news conference about making laws stricter as Singh’s brother wept beside him.
Singh also was an immigrant, coming legally from his native Fiji to fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer, authorities said. The 33-year-old had a newborn son and joined the 12-officer Newman police force in 2011.
The shooting comes amid a 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!”
The announcement of arrests comes after a statewide manhunt for the suspect accused of killing Singh the day after Christmas. Authorities said the officer pulled over the attacker as part of a drunken driving investigation around 1 a.m.
There was a gunfight as Singh “absolutely tried to defend himself” but he apparently didn’t hit the suspect, Christianson said.