Tulare County, CA – The twice-deported illegal alien accused of fatally shooting two men and wounding several others before leading police on a high-speed pursuit into oncoming traffic was able to commit his random attacks because the detainer placed on him by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was ignored.
The suspect, 36-year-old Junior Gustavo Garcia-Ruiz, also fired on police and intentionally crashed into four vehicles on State Route 65 during his “personal reign of terror,” Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said, according to FOX News.
Garcia-Ruiz died in the collision, which left one driver in critical condition and three others with minor injuries.
"This deadly rampage could have been prevented if ICE had been notified of his release,” ICE said in a scathing press release on Wednesday, according to KFSN.
“This is an unfortunate and extremely tragic example of how public safety is impacted with laws or policies limiting local law enforcement agencies' ability to cooperate with ICE,” the agency said.
Tulare County sheriff’s deputies had Garcia-Ruiz in custody on Dec. 14, after he was found to be under the influence of a controlled substance, the Visalia Times Delta reported.
ICE officials immediately issued an immigration hold on Garcia-Ruiz, but the detainer was not honored because of California’s sanctuary state laws.
After just 10 hours in jail, the violent career criminal was released from custody.
On Sunday, Garcia-Ruiz allegedly tried to coax a Walmart shopper in Visalia into buying him a box of ammunition, but the man refused, the Visalia Times Delta reported.
According to police, the illegal alien was also the prime suspect in a theft from the ammunition safe at a Walmart in Tulare earlier in December. Three hundred 9mm bullets were stolen during that incident.
Garcia-Ruiz’s rampage began at approximately 1 p.m., when he shot an Exeter farm employee who was unpacking fruit, FOX News reported.
He then barged into a nearby convenience store, fired multiple rounds into the ceiling, and demanded $2,000 in cash, police said.
A short while later, Garcia-Ruiz fatally shot 38-year-old Rolando Soto in Lindsay, the Visalia Times Delta reported.
He descended on a Motel 6 in Tulare at about 7:30 p.m., and left a woman with gunshot wounds to her chest and arm, according to FOX News.
“She had made eye contact with the subject and he had followed her to her parking spot, where he got out of the car and for an unbeknownst reason began firing at her vehicle,” Tulare interim Police Chief Matt Machado explained.
She is expected to recover from her wounds, the Visalia Times Delta reported.
Garcia-Ruiz traveled over to Oriole Avenue and opened fire on a man who was standing outside a residence, leaving him with non-life threatening gunshot wounds.
He then went to an Arco AMPM store in Visalia, and fatally shot 51-year-old Rocky Paul Jones outside the building, Visalia Police Chief Jason Salazar said, according to FOX News.
Garcia-Ruiz opened fire on his ex-girlfriend’s residence as his next target, but she and her children were not injured during the attack.
The illegal alien also fired multiple rounds into a home in the Sultana area, just before he led officers on a two-minute pursuit laden with gunfire.
The pursuing deputies’ vehicles were struck in the shootout that ensued, and Garcia-Ruiz ultimately crashed his vehicle and took off into an orchard, KFSN reported.
"I've had a chance to review some of the video as well and I have to tell you that they ran into harm's way,” Sheriff Boudreaux said of the officers who engaged Garcia-Ruiz. “They truly are heroes.”
The suspect then carjacked three farm workers at gunpoint, and took off in their truck, according to the Visalia Times Delta.
Police pursued Garcia-Ruiz down Highway 65 at speeds that exceeded 100 miles per hour, as the rampaging gunman drove the wrong way into oncoming vehicles, FOX News reported.
“This is a man with no regards for human life,” Sheriff Boudreaux said. “It appears his rampage and his acts of violence were random and they were not chosen targets, which makes it even more dangerous.”
“This person was targeting anyone who got in the way,” he concluded.
Garcia-Ruiz was ejected from the stolen pickup during the fatal collision near Porterville, and died at the scene, the Visalia Times Delta reported.
The force of the impact separated the cab of the truck from the vehicle’s axle and bed, and flung the engine “quite a distance” down the highway, police said.
According to ICE agents, Garcia-Ruiz first entered the U.S. illegally as a juvenile in 1992, KOMO reported.
In 2002, his status was adjusted to “Lawful Permanent Resident,” but he was later detained by ICE after being convicted of carrying a loaded firearm in a public place in 2003.
Garcia-Ruiz was arrested on assault with a deadly weapon in Reedley and armed robbery in Fresno in 2002, The Fresno Bee reported.
He has also been charged with methamphetamine and firearm possession offenses in the past, according to FOX News.
He served two years in federal prison before he was deported in 2004, the Visalia Times Delta reported.
Undeterred, Garcia-Ruiz illegally re-entered the U.S., and served another 27 months in federal prison before he was deported again in 2014.
It was unclear how long he had been in the U.S. prior to his deadly crime spree.
"The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office is equally as frustrated with this situation," Sheriff Boudreaux said. "Because of California law, detainers can no longer be recognized by local law enforcement."
"Before SB 54, Gustavo Garcia would have been turned over to ICE officials,” he continued. “That’s how we’ve always done it, day in and day out.”
"After SB 54, we no longer have the power to do that. Under the new state law, we must have a 'federally signed warrant' in order to do that,” he explained. “We didn’t honor the detainer because state law doesn’t allow us to.”
Sheriff Bourdreaux, who has argued against the sanctuary state restrictions in the past, said that this horrific incident should serve as an “eye opener” for state officials.
“Our hands are tied,” the frustrated sheriff said. “I hope local officials are paying attention.
"All we're asking for is the ability to speak to our law enforcement counterparts in our jail system, recognizing those with potential grave danger to our community," he told KFSN.