2 arrested after Merced police officer and suspect shot

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A Merced police officer and a suspect were shot during a gun battle early Saturday morning. Two suspects are now behind bars in connection with the shooting. (Merced County Sheriff's Office)

A Merced police officer and a suspect were shot during a gun battle early Saturday morning. Two suspects were arrested in connection with the shooting.

Jaime Caudillo, 30, and Steven Rincon, 24, are both behind bars on attempted murder charges with gang enhancements. Investigators say Caudillo was wounded when police fired back at him, and Rincon put up a fight when he was caught. Their arrests ended a search that lasted several hours.

The police officer was shot during a traffic stop around 2:30 a.m. Neighbors who live near H and 21st streets say a barrage of bullets woke them up, including one woman who did not want to be identified.

"We just heard a bunch of shots, probably about 12-15 shots back to back," she said.

"I dove to the floor. I just rolled out of bed and got on the floor," said Paul Mann.

City leaders say the officer was hit in his bulletproof vest and in the hand, and is now recovering. Two other officers who rushed to help him returned fire, but the suspects sped away and later abandoned their car in a nearby alley. The SWAT team and sheriff's deputies with K9s joined in the search, going door-to-door.

"After a couple of hours, the officers located one of the suspects with the assistance of the CHP helicopter. That suspect was found hiding in a backyard, and when they located him, it was determined he had injuries from the officers' gunfire," said Lt. Andre Matthews with the Merced Police Department.

Police say Caudillo had multiple gunshot wounds. They believe he was the passenger in the car and that he fired at the officer. The 30-year-old was treated at a hospital and then booked into jail. The suspected driver, Rincon, was found hiding in a home on 21st Street just before noon. Authorities say the 24-year-old fought with them during his arrest. Both men have criminal records, and Caudillo was just released under AB 109 in October.

"Officers do traffic stops all the time, and that's one of the most dangerous things they do because the people in the car know if they've done something wrong, and the officer may not be aware of it when he walks up to that car, so that can be a very dangerous time for our officers, and that's pretty much what we believe happened in this incident," said Matthews.

Merced has had several recent shootings and five homicides so far this year. That follows an all-time high of 15 last year.

Action News spoke with Mayor Stan Thurston, who said he is very concerned and wants to make more funding for the department a priority. We're expecting to learn more about the shooting at a news conference Sunday morning.

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