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Crime

Update: Sheriff says Paso Robles police attack was an ‘ambush,’ releases photos of suspect

 

Update 10 p.m.: The SLO County Sheriff’s Office has identified a suspect in Wednesday’s shooting. For more details, read our story here >>>> Paso Robles shooting suspect identified

Update 4:15 p.m.:

Officials have released a more specific timeline of Wednesday’s events.

Click to resize

According to the events outlined at Wednesday’s news briefing, at about 3:09 a.m., staff inside the city’s police station noticed a suspicious person outside on surveillance cameras who began shooting a gun at the building.

Sheriff Ian Parkinson and Paso Robles Police Chief Ty Lewis said the back of the building was struck several times, breaking at least one window, and causing damage to its brick structure. Several vehicles were also shot, they said.

A call went out for assistance to the CHP, Atascadero Police Department, and the Sheriff’s Office.

Two deputies responded to the police station on Park Street in a two-man patrol car at about 4 a.m. and began searching for the suspect.

At about 4:19 a.m., the deputies had exited their vehicle when they were met with gunfire from the suspect, Parkinson said. One deputy was struck by a bullet in the head or face, and his partner returned fire as a “brief” gunfight ensued.

Emergency personnel from the Paso Robles Fire Department assisted in evacuating the wounded deputy off the scene and to medical attention.

It was during the following search for the gunman that officers discovered the 58-year-old homeless man who had been shot in the back of the head north of the train station. It’s unclear whether the man was killed before or after the suspect attacked the police station.

Photos of the suspect in Wednesday’s shooting in Paso Robles show him entering the lobby of the Piccolo hotel and at Street Side Ale House. SLO County Sheriff's Office

Update, 3:25 p.m.:

County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon that the suspect who opened fire on deputies early in the morning did so in an unprovoked “ambush.”

“This was a direct attack on law enforcement,” Parkinson said. “We are going to catch this person.”

The deputy who was injured was shot in the head, Parkinson said. The two-year veteran of the department remains in serious but stable condition at a trauma center outside the county. The agency is not releasing his name.

“He’s not out of the woods,” Parkinson said. “This is very serious.”

Investigators are still examining five separate locations in the downtown Paso Robles area, which continues to be an active crime scene. They include the location of the homicide north of the train station, the spot where the deputy was shot at 10th and Riverside, the nearby location where the suspect shot the deputy from, the Police Department and the DMV.

Photos of the suspect in Wednesday’s shooting of a San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office deputy released at a news conference June 10, 2020. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

“We feel very confident the suspect is no longer in our area,” Paso Robles Chief Ty Lewis said at the news conference.

Officials at the news conference described the suspect as a Hispanic male in his 20s or 30s, standing 5 foot 8 inches and weighing between 150-160 pounds. The man has curly hair and a beard, authorities say. They released photos showing the suspect at two Paso Robles locations: the Piccolo hotel and Street Side Ale House.

The man who was found deceased has not been publicly identified, but Lewis said he was a 58-year-old male who appeared to be a homeless person sitting or sleeping near the tracks. Lewis said the man suffered a single gunshot to the back of the head.

Parkinson said that because a suspect has not been identified, no motive has been established. But at a news conference Wednesday, Parkinson spoke at length about anti-law enforcement sentiment across the nation following the police killing of George Floyd.

Parkinson also cited recent shooting ambushes on police officers and deputies in Oakland and Santa Cruz as examples of violence against officers.

He said that more than a week of responding to peaceful demonstrations across the county has taken a toll on his deputies, many of whom are exhausted, he said.

Asked by a reporter at the conference to speculate whether Wednesday’s shooting was sparked by recent events, Parkinson said that anti-police sentiments have “been the general theme floating around our nation” since Floyd’s death.

“The treatment of law enforcement by some people has been horrendous,” Parkinson said. “(It’s) been very hard on the deputies and police officers.”

Lewis asked anyone with information about the shootings to call the Sheriff’s Office at 805-781-4550, the Paso Robles Police Department at 805-237-6464, or leave an anonymous tip at Crime Stoppers.

Lewis also encouraged the shooter, if he was watching, to turn himself in.

“There’s no need for further bloodshed,” Lewis said. “It’s the right thing to do. We need to end this.”

Update, 2:50 p.m.:

The Paso Robles Police Department says the search of the downtown area has concluded, but the suspect remains at large.

The downtown remains closed, however, as officers process evidence.

Update, 1:15 p.m.:

Business owners in the downtown area said Wednesday afternoon they were aware of the ongoing active shooter situation, and some were taking extra precautions to keep customers and employees safe.

They said stress from the coronavirus outbreak, the economic downturn, and the protests following the death of George Floyd has started to build up and impact people.

 

“It’s just one thing after another,” said Cassie Hyfield, a cashier at Blake’s True Value Hardware.

“It’s a working community,” Hyfield added. “We try to do the best we can with the chaos that we’re in.”

The hardware store is located near the intersection of 17th Street and Riverside Avenue, just down the road from the Paso Robles Event Center and the command post law enforcement set up on Wednesday morning.

Garrett Perney, a salesman at the store, said police asked store employees to take precautions and remain alert. Staff kept the store’s back doors locked from the outside, shut down exterior barns and kept a lookout for any trouble.

Perney said he can sense the stress that people are under right now.

“It just seems like there’s a lot going on,” he said. “A lot for people to digest.”

Police opened Spring Street and part of 12th Street west of Downtown City Park in the early afternoon.

Kitty Arosteguy, owner of The Spa Central Coast on 12th Street, said the lockdown and manhunt created issues for her business during an already trying time.

“It’s already slow,” Arosteguy said. “So it’s just another challenge.”

The Spa recently began offering vegan food from Bliss Cafe in San Luis Obispo just to get the doors open, Arosteguy said.

Various police agencies responded to Paso Robles to assist with police an early morning shooting Wednesday, June 10, 2020. Here, 12th Street is blocked off at Spring Street as the investigation continues. Acorn building is in background. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

“Everybody needs to get back to work so this chaos stops,” she said.

Just down the street, Adriana Chavez, owner of Habaneros Mexican Restaurant, hoped she could open for a late lunch or dinner after the shelter-in-place order.

“It’s strange, this time,” Chavez said. “Everything is happening at the same time.”

Chavez said sales at her restaurant are down significantly, but she’s hopeful business will come back. She said the shooting and lock-down were scary and not what she’d expect in her city.

“We’d never think in Paso Robles,” Chavez said. “You think in other places, but it’s always quiet and nice and safe.”

Mayor Steve Martin said Wednesday that no more information was expected to be released prior to a news conference that has been scheduled at the Sheriff’s Office substation at 356 North Main Street in Templeton at 3 p.m.

Update, 12 p.m.:

Investigators with the California Highway Patrol are examining the perimeter of the DMV office building in the block adjacent to the police station.

CHP helicopters remained in the air over the downtown area.

A California Highway Patrol officer examines the perimeter of the DMV office at 841 Park St. in Paso Robles following an early-morning shooting that wounded a sheriff’s deputy outside the police station and the discovery of a man fatally shot in the head north of the Amtrak station. Investigators believe the incidents are related. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Update, 10:45 a.m.:

According to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office, the deceased person found north of the train station in Paso Robles was shot in the head at close range and is being considered the victim of a homicide.

The agency said in a news release that authorities now believe the death of the adult male is related to a shooting early in the morning that wounded a sheriff’s deputy outside the police station.

The Sheriff’s Office said it was sending the statement on behalf of the Paso Robles Police Department, which is investigating the alleged killing.

Investigators were seen by the train tracks north of the station Wednesday morning examining what appeared to be a body lying on a mattress that was covered with a sheet. Officials in blue forensic protective gear were seen examining the body.

Investigators examine the scene of a homicide that was discovered Wednesday in Paso Robles after a gunman attacked the police station and shot a sheriff’s deputy. The Sheriff’s Office said a man was found shot in the head at close range near tracks north of the train station. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Update, 10 a.m.:

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla said that a body has been found in downtown Paso Robles, but authorities do not yet know whether the death is related to the shooting outside the police station.

Cipolla said that the body was found in the 800 block of Pine Street, which is at or near the train station. He said that the investigation is being led by the Paso Robles Police Department and the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office is continuing a search for the shooter, who is described as a male in his 20s or 30s, and is still being considered active, Cipolla said.

The Tribune has reached out to Paso Robles police and the District Attorney’s Office for additional information.

Dozens of officers from the CHP, the Sheriff’s Office and the Morro Bay and Paso Robles police departments could be seen on and around the scene at the intersection of 13th and Riverside. 13th Street was blocked by police to Spring Street, and Spring Street was blocked to Ninth Street.

Traffic was being diverted out of the area via the 13th Street Bridge.

Brown tactical vehicles were seen parked in the 1100 block of Riverside Avenue, and CHP helicopters were flying overhead.

A tactical vehicle is parked near 12th and Riverside Ave. Riverside Ave. in Paso Robles is closed at 13th street. downtown Paso Robles is closed as police investigate an early morning shooting June 10, 2020. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Original story:

Downtown Paso Robles was on lockdown Wednesday morning after a man fired a gun at the police station and shot a San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office deputy.

As of 5:30 a.m., residents in downtown Paso Robles were being asked to shelter in place while authorities searched for the active shooter suspect, who is considered armed and dangerous, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla said.

The deputy is in serious but stable condition and was airlifted to a trauma center, the Sheriff’s Office said. He was injured when he responded to the shooting at the station.

At about 3:30 to 3:45 a.m., a suspect began shooting at the Paso Robles police station, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Paso Robles police, the Sheriff’s Office and CHP officers responded to the scene and engaged the suspect, Cipolla said.

One deputy was shot while his partner returned fire, Cipolla said. The suspect also fired at multiple vehicles and hit a CHP car.

San Luis Obispo County sheriff deputies maintain a perimeter at 13th Street in Paso Robles near the railroad tracks on Wednesday, June 10, 2020, after a gunman shot a deputy and fired at the police station. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Cipolla said the suspect fled on foot.

Paso Robles police said on Twitter that the shooting was over by 4 a.m., and the SWAT team responded to the scene.

The department said the SWAT team was conducting a “systematic search.”

“Stay out of the area of downtown Paso Robles,” the department said.

“We have had an active shooter incident in the city of Paso Robles this morning,” Paso Robles Fire Chief Jonathan Stornetta said in a news release. “(The) Paso Robles Police Department and city officials are requesting the public to avoid downtown Paso Robles as law enforcement search for the suspect.“

“If you live or work in the downtown area, you are asked to shelter in place. Investigation is ongoing,” he added.

Officials are asking anyone with information about the shooting to all 911.

This story will be updated.

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