Breaking News Blog

Friday, Nov 16 2012 10:06 AM

Gunman at center of massive Lamont manhunt identified

By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN

The Kern County Coroner's Office has identified a Lamont man who was shot and killed Thursday morning after authorities said the man fired several times at Kern County sheriff's deputies, triggering a massive response by law enforcement and causing the closure of schools and the evacuation of a neighborhood in the small farm town.

Andres Aguilar, 19, died at about 8:24 a.m. at the scene of the shootout behind a home in the 8100 block of Bonita Road in Lamont, the coroner said in a news release late Thursday night.

The coroner said Aguilar "was shot by another," and that he was positively identified by family members.

Aguilar was hit by several rounds from the deputies, but on Thursday, Kern County Sheriff's Department spokesman Ray Pruitt said it was unclear at that point whether Aguilar died of those wounds or whether he took his own life.

The coroner's release appears to have eliminated the latter possibility, although a sheriff's spokesman Friday morning said investigators were still trying to nail down those details.

The deputies who fired their guns have been placed on routine paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, according to the sheriff's office. Their names have not been released.

The incident, which unfolded over a span of several hours, caused the Lamont School District to cancel classes on the advice of the sheriff's office. In addition, the Bonita Road home and several neighboring houses were evacuated.

The manhunt began at about 10 p.m. Wednesday when a sheriff's deputy attempted to pull over the driver of a 1990s Honda sedan for a license plate violation in the east alley of Main Street at Bonita Road, Pruitt said. The driver stopped but ran from his car.

The deputy chased him, but the suspect fired one round at him, Pruitt said, so the deputy called for back-up and deputies established a perimeter around the area. The deputy was not hit, and didn't return fire, the department reported.

At about 11:45 p.m. Wednesday, authorities searching streets and yards in the neighborhood located the suspect again, this time behind a tire store. Once again, the man fired at authorities. This time, one deputy returned fire, Pruitt said.

No deputies or bystanders were hurt, he said. The gunman again ran away and deputies lost sight of him. At that point, it wasn't known whether the man was injured.

More deputies and officers from other departments were called to create a large perimeter around the second shooting area. A sheriff's SWAT team was called, and deputies held the perimeter and delayed the search until sunlight.

At about 8:24 a.m. Thursday, authorities conducting a door-to-door search found someone hiding in a trailer at the rear of a private property on Bonita Road, Pruitt said. When they approached the trailer, someone fired at them, he said.

Sheriff's Cmdr. Daniel Leper said Thursday that deputies returned fire and neither they nor nearby residents were injured in the volley. He added that it was unclear why the man hid in that particular dwelling.

Later in a news release, the department said that after deputies returned gunfire, they "observed the suspect fall out of sight inside the trailer. Shortly thereafter deputies were able to enter the trailer and confirmed the suspect had been struck numerous times by gunfire."

Aguilar was pronounced dead at the scene.

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