LAMONT, Kern County (CBS SF) — The man suspected of gunning down Newman police officer Cpl. Ronil Singh during an early morning traffic stop was taken into custody Friday in the farm community of Lamont in Kern County, authorities said.
Standing next to Singh’s tearful family members, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson announced: “I am very proud that the suspect is in custody.” Christianson also criticized California’s sanctuary law that he said allowed the suspect, an undocumented immigrant who had previous run-ins with law enforcement, to avoid deportation.
The suspect was identified as Gustavo Perez Arriaga, 32, an alleged member of the Sureño gang.
Authorities also arrested five other people, including Perez Arriaga’s brother, 25-year-old Adrian Virgen, and a co-worker, 27-year-old Erik Razo Quiroz, who lied to police to try to protect him, Christianson said. Both men also were in the country illegally, he said.
Three people also were arrested at the home near Bakersfield for helping Perez Arriaga, Youngblood said.
The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department later reported the additional arrests of Perez Arriaga’s girlfriend, 30-year-old Ana Leyde Cervantes of Newman and Perez Arriaga’s brother, 34-year-old Conrado Virgen Mendoza of Chowchilla. Cervantes was arrested in in Turlock, and Virgen Mendoza was arrested in Livermore.
“I told you yesterday that anybody who aids and helps this criminal was gonna go to jail,” said Christianson, who vowed to arrest anyone else who assisted Arriaga.
Following his arrest, Arriaga was transferred to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department. A special effort was made to ensure that Singh’s handcuffs were used to restrain Arriaga.
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said Christianson had called him on at 4 p.m. Thursday, telling him that Arriaga may be fleeing toward Bakersfield on his way to Mexico.
“He gave me information that the suspect in shooting death of this police officer was somewhere between Modesto and Bakersfield and he believed headed toward Mexico,” Youngblood said. “He asked me to field a team and be ready because he had information come in as we were talking about where the suspect might be.”
Youngblood immediately activated his SWAT team.
“We had surveillance team set up in various communities,” he said.
They got a search warrant for a home in Lamont.
“As the search team was setting up to hit the house, our suspect exited the residence with his hands up,” Youngblood.
Arriaga was not armed at the time of his arrest.
Authorities said Arriaga crossed into the United States illegally in Arizona. He made his way to California where he worked as a farm labor.
Christianson said Arriaga had been arrested twice on prior DUI charges. He 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.
A massive statewide manhunt had been underway since Singh was killed just before 1 a.m. Wednesday during a traffic stop for suspected drunk driving at Merced Street and Eucalyptus Avenue in Newman. He cried “shots fired” over the radio and then went silent.
Following up on leads in the case, Stanislaus County detectives and other law enforcement officers conducted a search of a farmhouse in El Nido on Thursday, but no sign of the shooting suspect was discovered.
The truck used by the suspect was recovered abandoned in the Newman area. Authorities believe the suspect – who is in the United States illegally – was in hiding in Stanislaus County, but Facebook photos have surfaced of the man also spending time in the Bay Area.
Among the images is one of him standing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Multiple agencies responded to assist early Wednesday after Singh cried out “shots fired” over the radio and then went silent. He was found at the scene with gunshot wounds and transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Authorities began an intense search throughout Northern California for a man seen in surveillance photos at a convenience store shortly before the shooting.
He appeared to be a heavy man with short, dark hair, a silver chain, jeans, dark T-shirt and a dark jacket with white Ecko brand patches on the shoulders.
President Donald Trump, whose demand that Congress approve $5 billion for a U.S. southern border wall has led to a partial government shutdown, tweeted Thursday about Singh’s killing, ending with: “Time to get tough on Border Security. Build the Wall!”
Christianson 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.
Singh, a 33-year-old with a newborn son, was an “American patriot,” Newman Police Chief Randy Richardson said.
“He came to America with one purpose, and that was to serve this country,” Richardson said.
Singh drove more than two hours each way to attend the police academy in Yuba City, Richardson said. He joined the Merced County sheriff’s office as a reserve officer and worked as an animal control officer in Turlock before being hired by the Newman force in 2011.
English was Singh’s third language and he had a thick accent but took speech classes to improve his communication, the chief said.
Singh is survived by his wife, Anamika, and their 5-month-old son.
© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.