One man is dead after allegedly pointing a rifle at Ceres police and California Highway Patrol officers early Wednesday morning in the area of Sultana Drive and Highway 99 near Livingston, Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin said.
Pazin said it's unknown whether the suspect died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, or wounds suffered from the officers' gunshots. Two Ceres police officers and one CHP officer were involved in the incident. Pazin said the name of the suspect hasn’t been released, pending notification of family or next-of-kin.
Ceres police have handed the officer-involved shooting portion of the investigation over to the sheriff's department.
Ceres Police Lt. Brent Smith said the incident started around 12:18 a.m. in the area of Don Pedro Road and Ormie Lane. A Ceres police officer had pulled over the suspect's white Chevy truck. After the officer informed the suspect his truck was going to be towed, the suspect drove away.
The suspect drove through a chain-link fence and onto southbound Highway 99, where the pursuit ensued, Smith said.
Ceres police and the CHP officer pursued the suspect, who eventually drove over the median of Highway 99 from the southbound lanes onto the northbound side of the freeway. The suspect drove onto the Sultana Drive on-ramp from Highway 99, wrecked his vehicle and then exited, Pazin said.
The suspect pulled out a rifle and pointed it at the officers. The officers then discharged their weapons. At some point during the incident, the suspect suffered at least one gunshot wound to the head and died. However, Pazin said there's a possibility the suspect may have taken his own life, and it's unclear whether he was hit by the officers' gunfire.
Pazin didn't release the names of the officers involved in the incident. He said the incident is a "testament to the good work of the officers" and underlines the dangers they often face, particularly in the aftermath of the recent killings of two Santa Cruz police officers.
"There's nothing routine about law enforcement anymore," Pazin said.
City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.