Authorities: Suspect in ambush on California deputy is dead
By Stefanie Dazio, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The man suspected of ambushing and shooting a California sheriff’s deputy is dead after a shootout with police, authorities said Thursday.
Mason James Lira, 26, was accused of ambushing and seriously injuring a San Luis Obispo sheriff’s deputy and killing a transient man Wednesday in Paso Robles. The attacks sent off a massive manhunt in the central California Coast that ended Thursday in the shootout.
While Tony Cipolla, a San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s spokesman, confirmed Lira’s death, the surrounding details were not immediately available. Lira’s father says his son had several mental illnesses and did not take his medication.
Three officers were injured as police attempted to take Lira into custody Thursday afternoon at a chaotic scene in a riverbed, with residents in a 2-mile (3.22 kilometers) radius locked down.
An Arroyo Grande officer was struck by gunfire, while officers with the California Highway Patrol and Kings County Sheriff’s Office suffered unspecified wounds. All three are expected to survive their injuries.
The manhunt for Lira began at dawn Wednesday, when authorities said he opened fire on the Paso Robles police station. Two sheriff’s deputies heard gunshots and responded but didn’t see the attacker until they were outside their patrol car and under fire.
Deputy Nicholas Dreyfus, 28, was hit in the face. His partner fired back and dragged Dreyfus behind a police car. Dreyfus, who was able to radio that he’d been shot, underwent surgery Thursday and was in guarded condition.
While scores of officers searched for Lira, they received a report of a body near a train station and found a 58-year-old man shot to death on the tracks. He appeared to be a transient who was camping out overnight. Police believe Lira was responsible for the killing.
Lira’s father told The Associated Press he thinks the shooting at the police station might have been a suicide attempt.
Jose Lira said his son had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, Asperger’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He said his son has been in and out of jail and treatment centers, and often thinks he is a special agent or a soldier.
“He lives in a fantasy world,” Jose Lira said. “He doesn’t have a beef with the police.”
Soon after Jose Lira spoke to the AP, authorities said an Arroyo Grande police officer helping with the search was wounded in an exchange of gunfire with Lira at about 3 p.m.
Later, after a second exchange of gunfire, the Paso Robles Police Department tweeted “Suspect down. Several officers wounded.”