A Merced police officer was shot early Saturday during a traffic stop, an incident that erupted into a gun battle between officers and at least one man.
The officer, whose name has not been released, is expected to recover from his injuries, the Police Department said.
The incident was reported around 2:30 a.m. Saturday in the 2100 block of H Street, according to Lt. Andre Matthews. Two suspects were involved and both were taken into custody after a search involving several law enforcement agencies. The suspects have been identified as Jaime Caudillo, 30, and Steven Rincon, 24.
Caudillo was identified as the passenger of the suspect vehicle, and Rincon was the driver.
After the vehicle was pulled over by police, Caudillo allegedly began shooting at one of the officers, striking him. Two officers who had responded to the scene during the traffic stop returned gunfire, according to police. Police said it’s under investigation whether Rincon also fired upon the officers.
The suspects sped away and the vehicle later was found abandoned in an alley, a block from where the shooting happened. A CHP helicopter responded to assist with the search and directed law enforcement to where one of the suspects was hiding.
Caudillo was found in a backyard, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. Police said he is expected to recover from his injuries. Rincon was located by officers around 11:30 a.m. hiding at a house on 21st Street. He fought with officers, but was taken into custody. Rincon did not suffer any gunshot wounds.
Lt. Matt Williams said two guns were recovered as evidence in the case. Police believe one suspect tried to toss a gun into a backyard, while the other suspect tried to hide a gun in a garbage can. Williams said the officer, who was wearing a protective vest, was struck by bullets in his torso and hand.
Residents reported hearing many gunshots.
Paul Gibbons, 47, a UC Merced professor who lives in the area, heard the gunshots early Saturday morning. Gibbons said he was awake and heard at least half a dozen gunshots, followed by the sound of police cars and sirens.
“It sounded like someone emptied a clip. Rapid fire, that’s what I heard,” Gibbons said. “Very occasionally we hear a gunshot (in this area),” he added. “Sometimes it might be a firecracker, but this definitely wasn’t firecrackers.”
Both men have been booked at the Merced County jail on suspicion of attempted murder, being felons in possession of firearms and gang enhancements.
Police said Rincon was discharged from parole last month, and Caudillo was released from incarceration under Assembly Bill 109, the California Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011, in October.
Earlier this month, police Chief Norman Andrade told the Merced City Council he was concerned about the number of assaults against Merced police officers reported in recent years.
There were 22 cases in 2014 of Merced police officers being assaulted. In 2013, there were 31 cases in which officers were assaulted and 32 cases in 2012. The department reported 23 cases in 2011 and 24 in 2010, according to statistics obtained by the Merced Sun-Star.