Manhunt in full force after CHP officer targeted in drive-by shooting

Manhunt in full force after CHP officer targeted in drive-by shooting »Play Video
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — The manhunt is on for suspects after a California Highway Patrol officer was shot twice Sunday night while working radar on Highway 178 near Borel Road.

The officer, whose name was withheld, was parked on the westbound shoulder around 10:45 p.m. when an SUV passed, heading the same direction. The SUV slowed, made a U-turn and drove toward the officer, according to the CHP.

By Monday, dozens of officers from a number of local agencies were working to find the people in that SUV.

"We're coordinating, and we're looking for these bad guys," CHP spokesman Robert Rodriguez told Eyewitness News. A command post was set up in the CHP office in Lake Isabella.

Officers from police departments from Delano, Shafter and Arvin were part of the search, as well as the Kern County Sheriff's Office. Rodriguez said California Fish and Game, Bakersfield police and the FBI are also helping.

The Kern County Sheriff's Office helicopter set down nearby at about noon.

"These are criminals that had one intention," Rodriguez said. "That was to murder one of our CHP officers."

The Kern County Sheriff''s Office is leading the criminal investigation. It said the CHP officer was sitting in his patrol car, using radar to monitor westbound traffic.

After making the U-turn,the SUV came toward the officer, this time going east in the westbound lanes, a passenger opened fire from the open left rear window, hitting the car multiple times.

"It riddled the entire patrol car," CHP Assistant Chief Brian Smith said. "The officer immediately ducked down to his right and pulled his weapon."

Smith said the officer came back up, and he was hit by the gunfire.

"He was shot in the hand, and dead center shot right in the center of his chest," Smith said. "Thank God he was wearing his vest."

The officer was treated and released from a hospital.

"I'm just surprised it happened to one of our highway patrols," said Lake Isabella resident Mariann Harkey. She said many people in the Kern River Valley know the local officers.

Local resident Thomas Blunkall was also shocked to hear about the incident. "You never know where that person (the suspect) came from," he said. "Hopefully, not from up here."

The CHP officer was able to return fire, hitting the SUV several times, according to a sheriff's statement. It's believed his shots may have shattered the rear driver side window.

The SUV continued east toward Lake Isabella. The officer tried to chase it, but couldn't because one of the patrol car tires had been flattened by a bullet.

The vehicle was described as a dark blue Chevrolet Tahoe or GMC Yukon with 24-inch chrome rims and low-profile tires.

The SUV's driver was described as a Hispanic man in his 20s who was wearing a white cowboy hat and button-up shirt. Another occupant was described as a Hispanic man in his 20s with a light-colored tank top.

At least one other person was in the SUV, but the officer wasn't able to give additional descriptions.

Officers are asking for the public's help in the case, but warn the suspects are considered armed and "extremely dangerous." Anyone with information is urged to call 911, the Sheriff's Office at (661) 861-3110, or Secret Witness at 322-4040.

"They'll find them," Mariann Harkey predicted. "Can't get away up here, it's hard."

Rodriguez said the suspects must be brought to justice.

"It could have been worse than how it was, but we want to avoid this happening somewhere else," he said. "We want to find these guys, we want to bring them to justice."