Merced County sheriff's car struck by bullet in Le Grand

A Merced County Sheriff's deputy was fired upon early Saturday morning while driving his patrol car in a residential Le Grand neighborhood, the sheriff's department reported.

A 26-year-old man and 24-year-old woman were arrested in the area after the shooting, although investigators haven't said they're responsible for the incident.

The deputy was seated in his patrol car around 1 a.m. at the intersection of Washington and Truman avenues when the shooting happened, according to Sheriff Mark Pazin. He heard a loud "thud!" sound on the side of his vehicle, after he halted at a stop sign. At first, the deputy thought someone had hurled a rock at his patrol car. He turned the corner, got out of the car and saw a bullet hole in the right front passenger door, just below the window, Pazin said.

The department is not releasing the deputy's name.

Although the bullet did not pass through the door, Pazin said it was only inches away from striking the passenger side window. "We're just counting our lucky stars that the deputy did not get struck by this," Pazin said.

Later Sunday morning, a search warrant was served on a residence in the 12000 block of Washington Avenue in Le Grand, not far from where the shooting was reported.

A known gang member named Victor Higareda, 26, was arrested at the house, along with a 24-year-old woman named Sonia Brincat. Although the search warrant was conducted in connection with the shooting, neither Higareda or Brincat have been charged as suspects, according to Deputy Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman.

Inside the residence, detectives found a shotgun and homemade explosives, MacKenzie said.

MacKenzie said three small children, ranging in age from 2 to 7 years old, also live at the house.

Higareda was booked on suspicion of possessing explosive devices and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Brincat was booked on suspicion of child endangerment.

Higareda is being held in lieu of $555,000 bail, while Brincat is being held in lieu of $50,000 bail.

The incident is the second time, in less than a month, that someone has allegedly shot at a member of law enforcement in Merced County.

Two teenagers were arrested June 19 after they allegedly fired shots at Merced Police Officer Vance Walker, near Park Avenue and College Green Drive.