Sus­pect, 5 oth­ers ar­rested in po­lice of­fi­cer’s killing

Sher­iff cites state’s sanc­tu­ary law as fac­tor in slay­ing

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Evan Ser­noff­sky

A day la­borer with gang af­fil­i­a­tions and past ar­rests for drunken driv­ing, who was in the coun­try il­le­gally, was cap­tured out­side Bak­ers­field in the high-pro­file killing of a Stanis­laus County po­lice of­fi­cer, of­fi­cials an­nounced Fri­day.

But while the ar­rest of Gus­tavo Perez Ar­riaga, 32, ended a statewide man­hunt in Wed­nes­day’s killing of New­man po­lice Cpl. Ronil Singh, rev­e­la­tions about the sus­pect’s im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus and crim­i­nal his­tory reignited crit­i­cism of Cal­i­for­nia’s sanc­tu­ary state pol­icy.

At a news con­fer­ence Fri­day, Stanis­laus County Sher­iff Adam Chris­tian­son echoed Pres­i­dent Trump’s calls for stricter bor­der se­cu­rity as he railed against the state’s sanc­tu­ary law. The pol­icy, pushed by Democrats and signed in 2017 as SB54, pro­hibits lo­cal law en­force­ment from no­ti­fy­ing or shar­ing de­tained im­mi­grants’ in­for­ma­tion with fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion agents, when they are not ac­cused of se­ri­ous crim­i­nal charges.

Chris­tian­son, a Repub­li­can, has been a vo­cal critic of the pol­icy and met with Pres­i­dent Trump at the White House in May to speak out about the bill. The sher­iff ap­pears in a YouTube video posted by the White House seated be­side Trump dur­ing the meet­ing.

On Fri­day, the sher­iff said, “The last thing in the world I want to do is politi­cize the death of of­fi­cer Singh.” He then used the case to crit­i­cize Cal­i­for­nia’s law and sug­gested it led to the deadly en­counter.

“We were pro­hib­ited — law en­force­ment was pro­hib­ited be­cause of sanc­tu­ary laws and that led to the en­counter with of­fi­cer Singh,” Chris­tian­son said at Fri­day’s news con­fer­ence. “The out­come could have been dif­fer­ent if law en­force­ment wasn’t re­stricted, pro­hib­ited, or had their hands tied be­cause of po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence.”

Chris­tian­son never said when Ar­riaga was ar­rested, but records show — and of­fi­cials con­firmed — that he was picked up for a DUI in Madera County on June 5, 2014 — years be­fore the state’s sanc­tu­ary law pro­hib­ited lo­cal law en­force­ment from co­op­er­at­ing with fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties.

It was un­clear Fri­day whether of­fi­cials in Madera County knew of Ar­riaga’s im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus or alerted im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties.

It was in Madera County that Chowchilla po­lice ar­rested Ar­riaga on a speed­ing vi­o­la­tion on June 5, 2014, and found he was driv­ing with a blood al­co­hol level of more than .08 per­cent and with­out a li­cense, Chowchilla Po­lice Chief David Riviere said Fri­day. At the time, Ar­riaga also had a war­rant out for his ar­rest for driv­ing un­li­censed and hav­ing no in­sur­ance, Riviere told The Chron­i­cle.

“As far as im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus, I can tell you we do not ask those ques­tions. We have no rea­son to,” Riviere said. “He was stopped for a traf­fic vi­o­la­tion and found to be DUI.”

It also re­mained un­clear Fri­day whether Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment agents had ever en­coun­tered, ar­rested or de­ported Ar­riaga. Be­cause of the gov­ern­ment shut­down, ICE of­fi­cials were un­avail­able Fri­day for com­ment on the case.

Chris­tian­son said he did not know if Ar­riaga had ever been de­ported.

“We’re not here to en­force fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion law — that’s not our job,” Chris­tian­son said at the news con­fer­ence. “But law en­force­ment should be able to turn peo­ple over to ICE who are gang mem­bers who vic­tim­ize and ex­ploit oth­ers.”

The sher­iff ’s com­ments came a day after Trump seized on the killing in his fight over bor­der se­cu­rity and de­manded Congress fund a U.S.-Mex­ico wall. The fight has been at the cen­ter of the gov­ern­ment shut­down that be­gan on Dec. 22.

“There is right now a full scale man­hunt go­ing on in Cal­i­for­nia for an il­le­gal im­mi­grant ac­cused of shoot­ing and killing a po­lice of­fi­cer dur­ing a traf­fic stop,” Trump wrote on Twit­ter. “Time to get tough on Bor­der Se­cu­rity. Build the Wall!”

Sup­port­ers of Cal­i­for­nia’s pol­icy pushed back on Chris­tian­son’s pointed state­ments Fri­day, un­der­scor­ing that the law was writ­ten to en­cour­age co­op­er­a­tion be­tween law en­force­ment and im­mi­grants, who may be re­luc­tant to come for­ward if they are crime vic­tims.

“This sit­u­a­tion is more about what this per­son’s state of mind was and how he got into this sit­u­a­tion, and it has less to do with the fact that he’s not a cit­i­zen,” said Bill Hing, a San Fran­cisco im­mi­gra­tion at­tor­ney and Uni­ver­sity of San Fran­cisco law pro­fes­sor.

Ar­riaga — a day la­borer who worked at mis­cel­la­neous farms and dairies around the cen­tral val­ley — sur­ren­dered early Fri­day out­side a house sur­rounded by SWAT of­fi­cers on the 8200 block of Brooks Lane just south of Bak­ers­field in the town of La­mont (Kern County), of­fi­cials said. Au­thor­i­ties said he was flee­ing to his na­tive Mex­ico when he was cap­tured.

Ar­riaga al­legedly shot Singh — a 33-year-old hus­band and fa­ther of a 5-month-old boy — dur­ing a DUI stop around 1 a.m. Wed­nes­day in New­man. Singh, too, im­mi­grated to the United States, but he came legally from Fiji to pur­sue a life­long dream of be­com­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer.

Singh’s younger brother Reg­gie and other fam­ily mem­bers stood along­side the Stanis­laus County sher­iff ’s of­fi­cials at Fri­day’s news con­fer­ence.

“Ronil Singh was my older brother. Yes, he’s not com­ing back, but there’s a lot of peo­ple out there that miss him and a lot of law en­force­ment peo­ple that I don’t know, who worked days and nights to make this hap­pen,” Reg­gie Singh said through tears. “I’d like to thank you from the bot­tom of my heart.”

Kern County Sher­iff Donny Young­blood said six peo­ple were in the home when Ar­riaga was ar­rested in­clud­ing some chil­dren. Deputies ar­rested three Bak­ers­field res­i­dents there on sus­pi­cion of aid­ing and abet­ting Ar­riaga. They are Bern­abe Madri­gal Cas­teneda, 59, Erasmo Vil­le­gas, 36, and Maria Luisa Moreno, 57.

The Stanis­laus County Sher­iff ’s De­part­ment ad­di­tion­ally ar­rested Ar­riaga’s brother, 25-year-old Adrian Vir­gen, and a co-worker, Erik Razo Quiroz, 27, on sus­pi­cion of aid­ing Ar­riaga’s at­tempted es­cape from the coun­try.

“They in­ten­tion­ally lied to us,” Chris­tian­son said of of the lat­ter two sus­pects. “They tried to di­vert us off the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. They mis­led us. They pro­vided in­for­ma­tion that was false all in an at­tempt to pro­tect their brother.”

Ar­riaga was a known as­so­ciate of the Sureño street gang, Chris­tian­son said, and was pic­tured on one of his var­i­ous Face­book pages pos­ing with a gun and ma­chete.

Deputies brought Singh’s hand­cuffs down to Kern County to place on Ar­riaga be­fore he was trans­ported to jail in Stanis­laus County.

Joan Bar­nett Lee / Modesto Bee

Stanis­laus County Sher­iff Adam Chris­tian­son and slain po­lice Cpl. Ronil Singh’s fam­ily mem­bers hold a news con­fer­ence.

Stanis­laus County Sher­iff’s De­part­ment

New­man po­lice Cpl. Ronil Singh was gunned down dur­ing a traf­fic stop early Wed­nes­day.

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