A manhunt continued Wednesday night for the suspect wanted in the shooting death of a Newman Police Department corporal during a traffic stop, authorities said.
“We don’t know where (the suspect) is,” Sgt. Tom Letras, spokesman for the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, said Wednesday afternoon after announcing that the truck the suspect was driving at the time of the shooting was found at a mobile home park in the 26000 block of River Road, about 4.5 miles northeast of the shooting scene. “We’re working outwards from here.”
Just before 1 a.m. Wednesday, Cpl. Ronil Singh, 33, called in a traffic stop at Merced Street and Eucalyptus Avenue in east Newman. Three minutes later, there was a report of “shots fired.”
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The corporal’s partner, who was patrolling nearby, was first on scene and found Singh suffering from gunshot wounds, said a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department, which is leading the investigation. Singh was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Singh, who lives in Modesto, is survived by his wife, Anamika, their 5-month-old son, his parents and a brother.
A “blue alert” issued by the California Highway Patrol described the suspect as heavy set with black hair, last seen wearing a black jacket with white Ecko brand patches on the shoulders, a black shirt, a silver neck chain and black shoes.
“Our Newman Police family is devastated by the loss of Ronil,” said Newman Police Chief Randy Richardson, who will hold a news conference Thursday at 11 a.m. at the Main Street station, where he and Stanislaus County officials will discuss the investigation.
It appears the shooting took place in front of a small, single-story apartment complex on Merced Street. Across the street is a utility station on one side of Eucalyptus and a home on the other.
Sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Royjindar Singh (no relation to the Newman corporal) said it appeared Cpl. Singh’s vehicle was positioned as it should have been during a typical traffic stop, several feet away from the curb. Information was not available on the circumstances of the shooting, including whether the corporal was able to draw his weapon and exchange gunfire.
Cpl. Singh’s K-9 partner, Sam, was in his vehicle at the time of the shooting and was not hurt, Deputy Singh said. Sam was confined, so he could not come to the corporal’s aid.
The suspect apparently fled the scene in a silver, extended-cab Dodge Ram 1500 pickup, which was seen in the area at the time of the shooting. There were paper plates on the vehicle, which read “AR Auto.”
Working off several tips from the public, that vehicle was discovered about 13 hours after the shooting at a River Road mobile home park just south of Azevedo Road, where law enforcement officers were serving a search warrant.
Letras confirmed the pickup was the one driven by the suspect. Crime scene tape was seen inside the mobile home park, where several media outlets, including some from the Bay Area, Sacramento, Salinas and Fresno, converged late Wednesday afternoon.
“There’s lots of potential evidence,” Letras said. “Fingerprints, DNA, gunshot residue and physical evidence. We’ll be processing the truck to get any evidence to help in the prosecution.”
All law enforcement agencies within Stanislaus County responded to the shooting and were involved in the search for the killer. Merced County sheriff’s deputies also responded, Deputy Singh said.
A “snare” was immediately set up around the city following the shooting, and deputies and officers searched neighborhoods, as well as other parts of the county. A snare blocks main routes in and out of a crime scene, Deputy Singh said, adding that Newman fortunately has few of them.
At one point, Highway 33 at Stuhr Road was blocked by three Stanislaus sheriff’s vehicles. There also was a strong law enforcement presence seen along Hills Ferry and River roads, near where the Dodge Ram would eventually be found.
At the Newman Police Department on Main Street, flags flew at half staff and a vase holding flags and flowers sat next to a memorial in front of the flagpole.
Before coming to Newman in 2011, Singh worked as a reserve with the Merced County Sheriff’s Department in 2010 and worked for the Turlock Police Department from 2006 to 2010, according to his Facebook page.
A native of Fiji, Singh studied criminal justice at Modesto Junior College in 2005.
He lived in the northeast Modesto neighborhood of Village I.
Anyone who sees the suspect should not engage him, as he is armed and dangerous and already has killed, Deputy Singh warned.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Detective Michael Fisher at 209-525-7083 or dispatch at 209-552-2468. Anonymous tips may be left by calling Stanislaus Area Crime Stoppers at 209-521-4636. Callers may be eligible for a cash reward. Tips also can be submitted via www.stancrimetips.org.
Deke Farrow: 209-918-6945, @DekeFarrow