LOS ANGELES (AP) – A California sheriff’s deputy was shot and killed over the weekend when his SWAT team attempted to rescue people held hostage at a house in the San Joaquin Valley by a man armed with a AK-47 style rifle and handgun, authorities said on Monday. .
Four other people were also killed in the shooting, including the gunman – who had previously been arrested several times for domestic violence offenses, according to Lt. Joel Swanson, a spokesperson for the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.
(Editor’s Note: This story includes a discussion of domestic violence. If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).)
Swanson did not know the details of the 41-year-old gunman’s previous arrests and he has yet to be publicly named. A restraining order against the shooter – filed by one of the victims and effective on June 3 – was supposed to prevent him from going to the home where the murders took place.
Three people inside the house – believed to be the gunman’s sons and their mother – were shot dead in the Sunday afternoon standoff in Wasco, a small community in the middle of farm fields northwest of Bakersfield.
The woman had filed the restraining order, Swanson said, but authorities were still trying to determine what prompted her to take legal action against him. The restraining order was also supposed to prevent the shooter from having any guns.
The shooting “has the implications of what we see in law enforcement around domestic violence and how serious it is,” Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said, “and quite frankly how an order ban is not bulletproof ”.
The deputies shot and killed the suspect after he started to climb onto the roof of the house with the guns.
Youngblood identified the deputy killed as Phillip Campas and called him a “star in our organization”.
Campas, 35, was a five-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office and had previously served as a sergeant in the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan. He was an instructor at the academy, as well as a member of the sheriff’s and honor guard’s SWAT team.
Campas is survived by his wife and three children, aged 6, 9 and 13, according to the Kern Law Enforcement Association.
“We thought he had been here for over 10 years, he had that kind of impact,” Youngblood said. “He had been here for five years.
Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statement calling Campas’ death “the tragic and senseless loss of this devoted public servant” and ordering that the Capitol’s flags be hoisted halfway up.
MP Dizander Guerrero was shot and wounded and two MPs were hit by shrapnel during the violence.
The violence began around 1 p.m. and included a call to 911 with an open line in the house, Youngblood said. The activity heard during the call led MPs to believe that at least one person was still alive inside the house.
“We felt compelled to come in and try to save this victim,” the sheriff said.
Two women and two girls were able to escape the house safely, Youngblood said. Their relationship to the shooter and the other victims was not immediately clear, but Swanson said they were believed to be acquaintances of the woman and her sons.
The victims inside the house – described only as the gunman’s 17 and 24-year-old sons and their 42-year-old mother – have also not been publicly named.
The first assistants to arrive at the home, following multiple 911 calls, were greeted by one of the women who had escaped. She told them that there was an armed man inside the house and that two or three people had been shot.
Within minutes, Youngblood said, the gunman began shooting the MPs from inside the house. A SWAT team, including Campas and Guerrero, approached the front door and encountered shots from a rifle. The deputies retaliated against the shooter.
Campas and Guerrero were beaten and taken to a safe place so that they could be rushed to hospital. The two MPs who were hit by shrapnel did not break the deadlock, the sheriff said.
For several hours, the suspect shot the deputies outside the house. At around 6.30 p.m., the gunman climbed to the roof with the rifle and handgun. The deputies fired at him, hitting him fatally.
Authorities found the other three victims dead inside the house.
More than 100 MPs intervened at the scene and 23 – some members of the SWAT team and others close to Campas – are currently on administrative leave due to the shooting.
Members of the SWAT team were on leave and did not answer calls on Monday while in mourning.