SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Authorities launched a manhunt Wednesday after a gunman shot and killed a police officer during a traffic stop in the small California town of Newman, in Stanislaus County.
The California Highway Patrol said the suspect, whose name was not known, is considered to be armed and dangerous.
Newman Cpl. Ronil Singh, 33, had called in the traffic stop early Wednesday, saying he was pulling over a gray pickup truck that had no license plate, and a few minutes later reported shots fired over his radio, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Royjinder Singh said.
Multiple agencies responded and found Singh with gunshot wounds. They rushed the husband and father of an infant boy to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Ground and air units were searching for the suspect based on surveillance photos taken at a convenience store shortly before the attack in Newman, about 100 miles southeast of San Francisco.
In the photos, the heavyset suspect with short dark hair is wearing a thick chain necklace, jeans, a dark T-shirt and a dark jacket with white Ecko brand patches on the shoulders. Surveillance footage also captured the suspect’s vehicle, a gray Ram pickup with paper dealership plates, matching the description that Singh had called in.
A truck believed to have been the one stopped by Singh was later found in a garage in a mobile home park about 4 miles from the shooting.
Authorities located the vehicle and said it was being processed for evidence.
“We have sent out information to law enforcement up and down the state, as well as outside California,” said Sgt. Tom Letras, a sheriff’s spokesman.
Singh was a native of Fiji and had worked since July 2011 for the police department in Newman, a town of about 10,000 people. Earlier in his career, Singh worked as a deputy with the Merced County Sheriff’s Department.
“He was living the American dream,” said Stanislaus Officer Singh, who is not related to the slain officer but knew him. After emigrating from Fiji, Ronil Singh went to the police academy and got his dream job, the deputy said, adding that “he loved camping, loved hunting, loved fishing, loved his family.”
On his Facebook page, Ronil Singh posted pictures on Christmas Eve from a deep-sea fishing trip that produced a big haul of crabs and fish. The profile picture shows him smiling as he stands at a patrol car with a dog — the same photograph of the officer released by the sheriff’s department.
Singh is survived by his wife, Anamika, and a 5-month-old son.
Outgoing California Gov. Jerry Brown offered condolences to Singh’s family and said flags at the Capitol would fly at half-staff in his honor.
“Our hearts are with the entire community of Newman and law enforcement officers across the state who risk their lives every day to protect and serve the people of California,” Brown said.
(Associated Press reporter Amanda Lee Myers in Los Angeles contributed to this story.)