By Nick Cahill
MODESTO – Authorities in California on Friday arrested a man suspected of killing a police officer during a traffic stop in a rural town, ending a two-day manhunt used by President Donald Trump to drum up support for his border wall.
Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said Gustavo Perez Arriaga, 32, shot and killed Newman Police Officer Ronil Singh during a DUI stop Wednesday morning. Singh initiated the traffic stop minutes after Arriaga bought beer at a nearby store.
Arriaga was arrested two days later nearly 200 miles south in Bakersfield.
The outgoing sheriff called the situation tragic and unnecessary, adding that local authorities believe Arriaga is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico with two prior DUI arrests. He believes California’s “sanctuary” laws played a role in Singh’s murder.
“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,” Christianson told reporters. “If he wasn’t here then he wouldn’t have been driving drunk.”
He added: “The enforcement stop potentially would have never occurred.”
Cpl. Singh, 33, immigrated to the United States from Fiji and was one of just 13 officers on the Newman Police Department. Newman, population 11,000, is located 25 miles southwest of Modesto in the Central Valley, in an area surrounded by farms. Singh is survived by his wife and infant son.
Trump quickly pounced on the tragedy after Christianson told local reporters Thursday that the suspect was undocumented.
“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. Time to get tough on Border Security. Build the Wall!” Trump tweeted.
Trump’s insistence on funding for the border wall led to a holiday government shutdown last week, as Democrats and even many in his own party refused the $5 billion demand.
Christianson said authorities arrested Arriaga at a home that was under surveillance in Bakersfield and that Arriaga was planning to flee to Mexico. He said Arriaga’s brother and a co-worker had been arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting.
“This criminal, Mr. Arriaga, crossed our border illegally into Arizona some time ago,” Christianson continued, as Singh’s brother wept in the background. “He is a criminal.”
In a separate press conference, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said Arriaga surrendered peacefully in a Bakersfield neighborhood and that officers used Singh’s handcuffs in the arrest. The department also arrested three others on suspicion of aiding and abetting Arriaga.
– Top photo courtesy Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department.