Police: Officers cleared in March gunfight with suspect

Police: Officers cleared in March gunfight with suspect

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Bakersfield Police announced Monday that all officers have been cleared from a March 14 gun battle with a suspect, who remains hospitalized.

An internal review board ruled that all shots fired by the officers were within department policy, and state and and federal guidelines.

"They are back to normal duty, and at work," Bakersfield Police Sgt. Joe Grubbs told Eyewitness News Monday afternoon.

Asked why the review took about three weeks, Grubbs said there were a lot of people to interview about the incident.

"I believe at last count, there were about 29 witnesses," Grubbs said. "Which is extraordinary for what we normally see in an officer-involved shooting. So, sifting through that and the review -- providing all that information to the review board -- it takes time."

Police said 29-year-old Miguel Villaneuva will eventually be released from the hospital and booked into jail for attempted murder, shooting at an inhabited dwelling, possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of stolen property, grand theft auto, resisting arrest, felon in possession of a firearm, felon in possession of ammunition, and felony evading.

On Monday, Eyewitness News contacted a woman who identified herself as Villaneuva's girlfriend. She declined to make any comment until she could talk to the family. We have not heard back from them yet.

The incident started when a California Highway Patrol officer tried to pull over Villaneuva for allegedly talking on a cellphone while driving. Villaneuva took off on a short chase, hit a parked car, then ran into the garage off McDonald Way.

Several rounds of gunfire were exchanged between the suspect and officers, and Villaneuva remained barricaded inside a garage for hours.

"At some point, the garage door opened where we had a visual of (the suspect), and there were shots exchanged," Grubbs said of the final confrontation.

On Monday, Grubbs said investigators believe Villaneuva fired shots at least three times during the incident, which lasted about four hours.

He said a suspect's gun was seized from the scene, but Grubbs did not have details on how many shots were fired by Villaneuva or the officers.

The officers who fired their guns have been identified as Detectives Chris Feola and Mason Woessner and Officer Keith Cason, who are all on the SWAT team. They had responded as backup.

Grubbs said the fourth officer who fired his weapon, Sr. Officer Jeff Martin, was among those first on the scene, and added he is a department K-9 handler. Grubbs said the police dog was not injured.

Also, no officers or neighbors were hurt in the incident. A number of neighbors were evacuated during the long stand-off.

On Monday, Grubbs could not provide much detail about Villaneuva's condition, other than to say the local hospital reported he was "stable."

But, Grubbs said police have been told Villaneuva is "improving."

"From our understanding, he's not in danger of dying," Grubbs said. "When he is recovered enough, he'll be booked into the Kern County Jail."