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Ridgecrest shooting spree suspect threatened to 'wreak havoc'

October 25, 2013|By Kate Mather, Ruben Vives and Richard Winton
  • Law enforcement helicopters line Highway 395 between Kramer Junction and Ridgecrest after a suspect who allegedly opened fire on passersby during an hourlong police pursuit in Central California was killed and two people found with bullet wounds in the trunk of his vehicle were airlifted to an area hospital.
Law enforcement helicopters line Highway 395 between Kramer Junction… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)

A man who went on a shooting spree near Ridgecrest after killing a woman and wounding a man warned police he was going to "wreak havoc" on the Central California community, authorities said.

Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said the man -- who was shot and killed after a nearly hourlong chase -- called a Ridgecrest police officer's cellphone early Friday and said he wanted to come to the police station and "kill all the officers but they had too many guns."

The man said he had a package for police and then warned he was "going to wreak havoc," Youngblood said.

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The call came as Ridgecrest police were at a home in the 500 block of West Atkins Avenue investigating a shooting that left one woman dead and a man with "multiple gunshot wounds," Youngblood said. That incident was reported about 5:15 a.m.

Roughly two hours later, a Kern County sheriff's deputy spotted the man's vehicle leaving the city, Youngblood said. The deputy attempted to pull the vehicle over, but the man refused and a pursuit began, the sheriff said.

As the man drove south on Highway 395, he opened fire on officers and oncoming traffic, and forced several vehicles off the roadway, Youngblood said. At a press conference, the sheriff said the man fired a shotgun and handgun at other cars an estimated 10 to 12 times, though no injuries were immediately reported.

At one point, the vehicle pulled over and the trunk opened, Youngblood said. Officers saw two people -- a man and a woman -- in the trunk, the sheriff said, which "changed the entire dynamic" of the pursuit.

Several miles later -- roughly eight miles north of Highway 58 -- the man pulled over again and began firing through the backseat of the vehicle into the trunk, Youngblood said. Seven officers -- sheriff's deputies, Ridgecrest police and California Highway Patrol -- opened fire, the sheriff said, and the man was shot and killed.

The people inside the trunk had gunshot wounds, though it was not clear when they sustained the injuries, sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt said. Both were airlifted to an area hospital.

The suspect's name has not been released by authorities, but Youngblood said Ridgecrest police "knew the suspect" and he knew them.

The relationship between the suspect and the victims was not immediately clear, but the sheriff said there was a "relationship amongst the players."

Investigators had closed Highway 395 south of Ridgecrest and the roadway would remain closed "most of the day" as authorities process "several different crime scenes," Youngblood said.

Youngblood said such an incident was "very unusual for the city of Ridgecrest," which he said was a town "known for no drugs, no gangs and graffiti." Ridgecrest, population of a little more than 27,000, sits in the northeast corner of Kern County and is its third-largest city.

"This type of thing is very alarming," Youngblood said.

Mayor Dan Clark said he was thankful law enforcement officers were able to stop the man. Clark said the police chief told him the suspect "had been neutralized," but said it was still unclear "how many victims there are or the extent of the injuries."

Clark was teaching at Mesquite Continuation High School on Friday morning when the city's schools were all placed on lockdown about 7:30, he said.

“Everyone is very shook up and concerned in Ridgecrest," he said. "This is a small town and things like this just don’t happen here."

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kate.mather@latimes.com

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