TURLOCK — Turlock police fatally shot a man and an officer was wounded by gunfire Saturday morning after a freeway pursuit and what police say was an attempted carjacking.
The chase began in Turlock about 6:30 a.m. and ended with the shootout in northern Merced County.
The wounded officer, who was shot in the leg, was treated at a hospital and released.
The male suspect, whose identity has not been released, died at the scene near the Highway 99 interchange with Bradbury Road.
Turlock police issued a news release Saturday morning describing the incident this way:
About 6:19 a.m., officers spotted a Honda that had been involved in a police chase Tuesday. The car was parked outside the Venice Motel at 1114 N. Golden State Blvd., and police saw a white male approach it.
When the suspect saw police, officers say he brandished a handgun, ran from them, got in the Honda and drove west on Fulkerth Avenue. He headed south onto Highway 99 with police in pursuit.
The suspect took the Bradbury Road offramp, stopped at the top of the ramp and got out of the passenger side.
Officers said he then tried to hijack a red pickup headed west on Bradbury.
Police said the suspect "shot into the vehicle and officers fired in protection of the victim" in the truck.
But a man who said he witnessed the shooting has a different version of what happened.
Mark Gutierrez, who owns a construction firm and lives near the Bradbury exit, said he and one of his workers were driving on the Bradbury overpass when the suspect and "a convoy" of police cars drove slowly up the offramp.
Gutierrez said both he and the driver of the red truck pulled over because of all the police lights and sirens. He said the suspect whom he said looked to be in his mid-20s got out of the car and walked in front of the truck.
Gutierrez said that when the suspect got out of the Honda, "it was obvious he did not have a gun in his hand." But when the man was moving toward the red pickup, there was a bit of time when Gutierrez couldn't clearly see him and it is possible he could have pulled out a gun. Either way, it did not look or sound like the suspect fired on the red pickup, said Gutierrez, who added that "I kept my eyes glued to the scene."
Police opened fire, Gutierrez said. He estimated there were more than 10 officers on the scene, and "they had the whole street blocked up and down the ramp."
Gutierrez who called The Bee late Saturday afternoon said it appeared to him that none of the officers tried to get the suspect to surrender before the shooting began. "There was no screaming, like, 'Stop! Get on the ground' or 'Let us see your hands,' " he said.
Gutierrez said his truck was "a couple hundred feet" in front of the man when he was shot, and his windows "probably were up," but he was sure that if officers had used a loudspeaker or had yelled to the man, he would have heard it.
Rather than staying to talk to police, Gutierrez said he had a construction job he had to get to in the Bay Area, so he left.
The Merced County Sheriff's Department is handling the criminal investigation because the shooting took place in that county. The Turlock Police Department will conduct an administrative investigation.
Merced County sheriff's deputy Tom MacKenzie said his department's detectives will want to interview Gutierrez. But MacKenzie said Gutierrez's perception of what happened does not fit with the evidence collected so far.
"The physical evidence at the scene backs up the story that's in the Turlock Police Department's press release," MacKenzie said. He said more information about what the Merced County Sheriff's Department's investigation has found will be released today.
The wounded Turlock officer's name has not been released. The suspect's identity won't be revealed until after his family is notified.
Turlock Police Chief Robert Jackson and Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin plan to hold a news conference at 2 p.m. today.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636.
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2343.