Corporal Ronil Singh was shot and killed during a traffic stop in Newman, California early in the morning on December 26, 2018. The shooting happened at the intersection of Merced Street and Eucalyptus Avenue. Newman is located in Stanislaus County in central California, east of San Jose.
Law enforcement said Singh made the traffic stop out of suspicion that the driver was under the influence of alcohol. Within a couple of minutes, Singh called out “shots fired” on his radio and that he had been hit. According to a release by the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, multiple agencies responded and found Singh suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He died at the hospital.
Police launched a manhunt to find the suspected gunman. The search ended on Friday, December 28, when Gustavo Perez Arriaga, 32, was arrested in Bakersfield. He will be charged with homicide. Officials said Arriaga is an undocumented immigrant.
Four other people, including Arriaga’s two brothers, a coworker and his girlfriend, also face charges. Police said they helped Arriaga escape after the shooting.
Sheriff Adam Christianson told reporters after the arrest that Arriaga had been trying to make his way to Mexico. He also claimed to be a member of the Sureno street gang.
Funeral services for Singh have been scheduled for Saturday, January 5 at 10 a.m. at CrossPoint Community Church in downtown Modesto.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Detectives: Corporal Singh Exchanged Gunfire With the Suspect
Corporal Ronil Singh called in a traffic stop just before 1 a.m. on December 26, 2018, according to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department. Within just a couple of minutes, he called in a report of shots fired. The suspected gunman, now identified as Gustavo Perez Arriaga, sped away in a Dodge Ram vehicle.
Deputy Royjindar Singh of the department spoke with a reporter from the Modesto Bee at the scene. He explained that Officer Singh was working with a partner that night, but the partner was not with him at the time of the traffic stop.
San Jose-based Mercury News obtained audio of the dispatch call that was made after gunshots were reported. You can listen to it above. It reveals that dispatchers initially thought Singh could have been kidnapped by the suspect.
But that assessment quickly proved to be inaccurate. Singh’s partner rushed to the scene and found Singh near his cruiser suffering from gunshot wounds. He was rushed to a local hospital but died from his injuries.
Detectives shared on December 27 that Singh exchanged gunfire with the suspect and tried to defend himself. The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department is leading the investigation. They also addressed the fact that Singh had been alone at the time of the shooting, explaining that this was just standard procedure because the department has a small staff.
2. Deputies: The Suspect, Gustavo Arriaga, Was an Illegal Immigrant With Two Prior Arrests & Suspected Gang Ties
The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department identified the suspected gunman and released photos of him while the manhunt was still underway. They shared his name, Gustavo Perez Arriaga, after he was arrested at a home in Bakersfield on December 28.
Deputies shared in a news conference on December 27 that the suspect was an illegal immigrant. Sheriff Christianson said, “He doesn’t belong here. He’s a criminal.” On Deember 28, the sheriff shared that Arriaga had been in the United States for several years after illegally crossing the border into Arizona. He reportedly told investigators he had ties to the Sureno street gang.
President Trump weighed in on the manhunt prior to Arriaga’s arrest. He wrote on Twitter, “There is right now a full scale manhunt going on in California for an illegal immigrant accused of shooting and killing a police officer during a traffic stop. Time to get tough on Border Security. Build the Wall!”
During the manhunt, the California Highway Patrol issued a Blue Alert in an attempt to more quickly locate the suspect. Deputies said the vehicle was a gray, extended cab Dodge Ram 1500 pickup with four doors. The vehicle had paper license plates.
The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department shared in the afternoon of December 26 that the vehicle had been located. Deputies followed up on a tip and found the truck in the 26000 block of River Road just outside of Newman. That discovery helped lead investigators to the home in Bakersfield where Arriaga was hiding.
3. Corporal Singh Was Himself an Immigrant From Fiji Who Was Living His Dream as a Police Officer
Corporal Ronil Singh, 33, was proud to be a police officer. His colleagues described Singh, who moved to the United States from Fiji, as a “true American patriot.”
Newman Police Chief Randy Richardson spoke about Singh during a news conference on Thursday, December 27, which you can watch in its entirety below. The chief was emotional as he spoke and was close to tears. He explained that Singh had been one of only 13 officers in the department and that they were all very close; he said they were like a family. The sheriff’s department was leading the investigation so that the Newman Department could grieve.
Richardson said Singh came to the United States and was excited to become a police officer. “You’ve never seen a man smile more than him… he was never in a bad mood. It was unreal. He loved what he did. He loved being a police officer. He loved being a husband. He loved being a father.”
Richardson stressed that he wanted people to remember Singh for the person he is, not by the event that took his life. “I hope that Ron is never forgotten.” He described the man who killed Singh as a coward.
According to Singh’s Facebook page, Singh previously worked for the Merced Sheriff’s Department and the city of Turlock. He studied criminal justice at Modesto Junior College, graduating in 2009. Singh also earned a college degree in his native Fiji in 2003.
4. Corporal Singh Lived in Modesto & Was Married With a Newborn Son
Corporal Ronil Singh lived in Modesto, California. An online search of records shows that he had multiple family members living in the area. He was married. He and his wife, Anamika, recently welcomed a baby son. They snapped the family photo by the Christmas tree, seen above, just about five hours before Singh was killed.
Singh also had a K-9 partner named Sam. Chief Richardson said the dog would be retired from the force in order to stay at home with Singh’s wife and son.
His public Facebook page shows an active lifestyle. Just one day before his death, Singh shared photos from a deep sea fishing trip. Newman police chief Randy Richardson said Singh loved to jet ski, ride his fly board and loved to fish.
5. A Memorial Fund Was Started to Benefit Singh’s Family
The Stanislaus Sworn Deputies Association has started a fund to benefit Singh’s family, called the Corporal Ronil Singh Memorial Fund. Deputies stress that this is the only authorized fundraising account. Online donations can be made here.
Police departments from across the country have issued tributes to Ronil Singh, such as the post above by NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill.
The Mono County Sheriff’s Department in California wrote on Facebook, “Corporal Ronil Singh gave his life for his community on Christmas morning. Keep his family, coworkers and friends in your hearts, as well as the law enforcement who searches for his killer.”