A man who was in the United States illegally and involved in a street gang was arrested on Friday in connection with the shooting death of a California police officer during a traffic stop two days earlier, the authorities said.
The man, Gustavo Perez Arriaga, 32, was taken into custody at a home near Bakersfield, Calif., Sheriff Adam Christianson of the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department said at a news conference on Friday. The police, following leads in their search for the gunman, had the home under surveillance for more than 24 hours after the shooting of the officer, Ronil Singh, 33, of the Newman Police Department.
Officer Singh was shot after stopping a driver, identified by officials as Mr. Perez Arriaga, on suspicion of drunken driving, in Newman, Calif., which is not far from Modesto. Officer Singh was then taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to a statement from the Sheriff’s Department.
The sheriff said Mr. Perez Arriaga had crossed the border from Mexico illegally into Arizona “some time ago,” worked as a farm laborer and bragged on social media about being active in a street gang.
Mr. Perez Arriaga’s reported status as someone who was in the country illegally added to the charged debate over immigration. President Trump tweeted about it on Thursday and at the news conference Sheriff Christianson criticized California’s so-called sanctuary policies, which limit cooperation between federal immigration authorities and state and local law enforcement.
“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,” he said. “My point is: Why are we providing sanctuary for criminals? Gang members? It’s a conversation we need to have.”
The sheriff said that officials believed the suspect was making his way to Mexico when he was arrested at a home in Lamont, Calif., about 10 miles outside of Bakersfield.
The sheriff said two other men who were also in the country illegally, Adrian Virgen, 25, and Erik Razo Quiroz, 27, were charged with accessory after the fact to a felony for helping Mr. Perez Arriaga escape. Mr. Virgen, Mr. Perez Arriaga’s brother, was arrested in Hanford, and Mr. Razo Quiroz, his co-worker, in Modesto. The sheriff said the two men deliberately provided investigators with misleading information about the suspect’s whereabouts.
Three other people — a 57-year-old woman and two men, one 59 and the other 36 — were arrested at the house in Lamont and charged with aiding and abetting Mr. Perez Arriaga, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office said on Facebook. Officials did not immediately provide details about how those three helped Mr. Perez Arriaga.
Sheriff Christianson said it was believed that Mr. Perez Arriaga was alone in his vehicle at the time of the shooting. He was unarmed when he was arrested, Sheriff Christianson said.
A motive for the shooting was unclear. The Kern County sheriff, Donny Youngblood, suggested at a separate news conference that it might have been related to being stopped for suspicion of drunken driving, adding, “For a suspect to take an officer’s life over a driving under the influence doesn’t make any logical sense to me nor anyone else.”
Officer Singh was an immigrant from Fiji, and had worked for the Newman Police Department since July 2011, officials said. He was married and had a 5-month-old son. After spending Christmas morning with his family, he went on duty that night.
The officer’s younger brother, Reggie Singh, was distraught as he spoke at the news conference led by Sheriff Christianson.
Through tears, he thanked the law enforcement agencies for their work in making the arrests.
Referring to his brother, he said: “Yes, he’s not coming back. There’s a lot of people out there that miss him.”