Killer Now Held With Cpl. Singh's Handcuffs, Was Caught Trying To Flee Country
Bakersfield, CA – The gunman accused of murdering Newman Police Department Corporal Ronil Singh was arrested on as he was attempting to flee to Mexico, authorities said.
“I am pleased and very proud of the fact that the suspect is in custody,” Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said during a press conference on Friday afternoon. “He was safely taken into custody earlier today.”
Gustavo Perez Arriaga, 32, fatally shot Cpl. Singh during a predawn traffic stop on Wednesday, leading to a massive multiagency manhunt.
Investigators had been watching the residence for at least 24 hours prior, after they tracked a vehicle to that location.
In a separate press conference, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood announced that police also arrested three other individuals inside the home.
Erasmo Villegas, 36, Bernabe Madrigal Castaneda, 59, and Maria Luisa Moreno, 57, were all taken into custody on suspicion of aiding and abetting Arriaga, Sheriff Youngblood said.
Additional arrests may be forthcoming, both sheriffs said.
"When you use a firearm against a police officer, you can run, but you can’t hide," Sheriff Youngblood said.
"No stone will be unturned for anyone we have information on that helped this suspect try and elude capture,” he added. “We will go after them.”
Sheriff Christianson had previously announced that Cpl. Singh’s killer is an illegal alien.
“That was his goal – to get across the border,” the sheriff reiterated.
Arriaga has self-promoted his status as a member of the Sureno street gang, and has two prior drunk driving convictions in Madera County, Sheriff Christianson said.
“This criminal, Mr. Arriaga, crossed our border illegally into Arizona some time ago,” he explained. “He is a criminal…past behavior is typically an indicator of future behavior.”
Police have also arrested the accused cop-killer’s brother, 25-year-old Adrian Virgen, and Arriaga’s coworker, 27-year-old Erik Razo Quiroz, for their role in helping Arriaga in his attempt to escape from the United States.
“They intentionally lied to us,” Sheriff Christianson said during the conference. “They tried to divert us…they misled us, they provided information that was false, all in an attempt to protect [Arriaga].”
Quiroz and Virgen are both illegal aliens as well, he confirmed.
Sheriff Christianson criticized California’s sanctuary state laws, and said that it is time to bolster security at the nation’s southern border.
“We can’t ignore the fact that this could have been preventable,” he declared. “Under SB 4 in California, based on two arrests for DUI and some other active warrants that this criminal has out there, law enforcement…was prohibited…from sharing any information with ICE about this criminal gang member.”
Were it not for the law, Arriaga would have been reported to ICE, and never would have crossed paths with Cpl. Singh, he said.
“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,” Sheriff Christianson reiterated.
“Why are we providing sanctuary for criminals, gang members?” the sheriff asked. “This is not how you protect a community.”
He noted that Arriaga’s arrest would not have been possible without the relationships between local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, and praised them for their willingness to help in any way possible.
“Our federal law enforcement partners – DHS, ICE, the FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection – all of them came to our aid,” Sheriff Christianson said. “Task forces, you name it, I had it available at our disposal.”
When investigators learned that Arriaga was in Bakersfield, all it took was “one call” to Sheriff Youngblood to get law enforcement officers in Kern County assembled, he said.
During the press conference, Cpl. Singh’s younger brother, Reggie Singh, told reporters that law enforcement officers had worked day and night to identify, locate, and apprehend his brother’s murderer.
“I’d like to thank you, from the bottom of my heart,” Reggie said through sobs. “He’s not coming back…but there’s a lot of people out there that miss him.”
Cpl. Singh was the first line-of-duty death in the history of the Newman Police Department, Newman Police Chief Randy Richardson reiterated on Friday.
“Many people have gone above and beyond to help us out,” Chief Richardson said, praising the multiagency response to apprehend Arriaga. “We are extremely grateful…Without our brothers and sisters in law enforcement, this would have never happened.”
Arriaga was being transported back to Stanislaus County from Bakersfield on Friday afternoon, and was wearing Cpl. Singh’s handcuffs during his journey, police said.
Cpl. Singh was murdered in the line of duty on Wednesday morning, after he pulled Arriago over for a possible DUI, the department said in a press release at the time.
The fatal altercation began at 12:57 a.m., when Cpl. Singh checked out on a traffic stop at Eucalyptus Avenue and Merced Street.
Just moments later, he radioed there had been “shots fired” at the scene, and officers from multiple agencies immediately responded to his location.
"It was a gunfight," Sheriff Christianson said during a press conference on Thursday. "Cpl. Singh absolutely tried to defend himself and stop this credible threat."
They found Cpl. Singh, 33, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.
He was rushed to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Arriaga fled the scene in a gray Dodge Ram pickup prior to other officers’ arrival, leading to the two-day manhunt.
Cpl. Singh, a native of Fiji, served the Newman Police Department for over seven years.
He was also a K9 handler, and was partnered up with Newman Police Department’s K9 Sam at the time of his murder, according to The Sacramento Bee.
He previously served with the Merced County Sheriff’s Department and the Turlock Police Department, The Modesto Bee reported.
Turlock Police Chief Nino Amirfar said that Cpl. Singh joined the department as a cadet, and described him as a “good man," according to The Sacramento Bee.
“His dream and desire was to be a police officer and to be there to serve his community,” Chief Amirfar said. “He chose to be the light in the darkness and to do so without hesitation. We are all devastated and are in mourning. He was loved and will always be in our hearts.”
“The love of community and humanity keeps the light of good burning bright and your police officers are the torch bearers and the guardians,” the chief continued. “Evil will never triumph over good.”
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Cpl. Singh’s uncle, Ugesh Yogi Singh, described his nephew as “adventurous,” and said he was the family’s “action hero.”
He said Cpl. Singh was working a Christmas night overtime shift at the time of his murder.
“He was a great role model for our next generation of Indo Americans,” Singh wrote.
Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Raj Singh told KCRA he was not related to Cpl. Singh, but that they were friends and have worked together over the years.
"He was living the American Dream,” Deputy Singh said. “He immigrated here from the Fiji Islands, just like my parents did, and was definitely enjoying the American Dream.”
Cpl. Singh leaves behind his wife, Anamika, and their five-month-old son, California Governor Edmund Brown said in a statement.