A suspect was arrested in the killing of a California police officer, police said Friday. Newman Police Cpl. Ronil Singh was shot and killed during a traffic stop just hours after Christmas.
Gustavo Perez Arriaga was arrested in Bakersfield on Friday as he tried to flee to Mexico, 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 said 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 the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for his previous arrests, adding that if he had been deported, Singh would still be alive.
“This is a criminal illegal alien with prior criminal activity that should have been reported to ICE,” Christianson said at a news conference. “We were prohibited, 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.”
Christianson spoke about making laws stricter as Singh’s brother wept beside him. The sheriff said he didn’t know if Perez Arriaga had ever been deported.
The sheriff also said that no motive had been established in this week’s killing. 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 announcement of arrests comes after a statewide manhunt for the suspect.
Authorities said the officer pulled over the attacker as part of a drunken driving investigation around 1 a.m. the day after Christmas. There was a gunfight as Singh “absolutely tried to defend himself” but he apparently didn’t hit the suspect, Christianson said.
The shooting comes amid a political fight over immigration, with President Trump and congressional Democrats at odds over funding for a border wall that has forced a partial government shutdown. Mr. Trump tweeted about Singh’s killing Thursday, saying it was “time to get tough on Border Security. Build the Wall!”