Pursuit ends with deadly gunfire in Merced County


Authorities say the incident started just after midnight in Ceres when a police officer stopped a car at Don Pedro Road and Omie Lane.

The driver then sped away, down Highway 99, and the CHP joined the pursuit.

The chase ended at Liberty Avenue near Livingston. That's where officers shot at the suspect.

Investigators say the suspect got out of his car in the area and pointed a rifle at Ceres police and highway patrol officers. That's when they started shooting, but it's not clear yet if they killed the suspect, or if he killed himself.

A damaged chain link fence along Highway 99 near Livingston is part of the aftermath of a police chase that ended with a crash and a deadly officer-involved shooting. It all started about 20 miles away in Ceres early wednesday morning.

"One of our Ceres police officers conducted a traffic stop on a white Chevy truck," said Lt. Brent Smith. "The stop lasted several minutes. It was a normal traffic stop, however toward end of stop, the officer informed driver that he was going to tow the vehicle. It was at that point that the driver started his vehicle and fled scene."

Authorities say the suspect headed south on Highway 99 with two Ceres police cars and one highway patrol unit in pursuit. He then crossed the median into the northbound lanes and smashed into a fence near the Sultana on ramp. Sheriff Mark Pazin says that's when the suspect got out of his damaged truck.

Sheriff Pazin explained, "He exited the vehicle with a long gun, pointed it at the officers, at which time they fearing for their safety and their own lives discharged their weapons."

When the shooting stopped, the suspect was dead in an orchard. Authorities say the man appeared to have a head wound, but it's not clear yet who fired the fatal round.

Sheriff Pazin added, "It's still very preliminary what happened, but it's also possible that individual took his own life by putting the gun to his head."

Now as the investigation continues, Sheriff Pazin says he's thankful the officers were not hurt... especially in the wake of two santa cruz officers being killed in the line of duty just last week.

"I think there's a heightened sense, there's nothing routine about law enforcement anymore," said Sheriff Pazin.

Authorities have not yet released the suspect's name or the reason he was initially stopped.

An autopsy is now underway to determine how he died. The officers involved in the shooting will be on paid leave during the investigation.

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