Merced County sheriff’s deputies involved in shooting death are identified

06/10/2014 3:33 PM

06/10/2014 8:59 PM

The names of two Merced County sheriff’s deputies who shot and killed a 39-year-old homicide suspect in May were released Tuesday.

Sgt. Dustin Witt and Deputy Adam Leuchner were involved in the May 30 shooting in Turlock, according to Turlock police Sgt. Stephen Webb.

Witt, 33, is a nine-year department veteran who recently was promoted to sergeant and named Deputy of the Year in early May.

Leuchner, 37, has been with the department for six years.

Both remained on administrative leave Tuesday pending further investigation, a standard procedure in officer-involved shootings, Deputy Delray Shelton said.

The deputies shot and killed Brian Scott Hiatt of Mariposa about 5:20 a.m. May 30 near a motel in the 200 block of South Walnut Road. Hiatt, 49, was the prime suspect in the murders several hours earlier of Rhonda Hiatt, 47, of Mariposa, and her sister, Lisa Robbins, 51, of Hilmar.

Both women were shot multiple times and killed just before 8 p.m. May 29 in the 11100 block of South Lander Avenue near Hilmar.

Shelton said investigators believed the violence stemmed from ongoing “domestic issues” between Brian Hiatt and Rhonda Hiatt.

Many questions surrounding the case remain unanswered, including how deputies managed to track Hiatt to the Turlock motel and whether Hiatt was armed during the confrontation with deputies.

Webb said once detectives conclude their investigation, the case will be sent to the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors will review the evidence and determine whether the shooting was justified.

Webb said the identities of officers involved in deadly incidents are typically withheld from the public during the initial stages of an investigation.

“Obviously in these types of tragic cases, we want to make sure there are no threats to deputies’ safety, which sometimes happens,” Webb said. “Once we’ve determined that isn’t going to be a factor we can decide to release the names.”

The Merced County Sheriff’s Department is conducting an internal review separate from the shooting investigation to determine whether departmental polices were followed during the incident. The internal affairs investigation is also standard in all officer-involved shootings.

Witt joined the department in September 2005 and was promoted in 2007 to the position of Deputy Sheriff II. He was promoted to sergeant May 5, Merced County spokesman Mike North confirmed.

Witt named the department’s Deputy of the Year on May 8, three weeks before the shooting in Turlock. He received the honor, at least in part, for his work with the department’s fugitive apprehension team, Sheriff’s Department officials said.

Leuchner joined the department in July 2007 as a reserve deputy. He was hired as a full-time deputy in August 2008, North confirmed.

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