Seven friends and relatives of illegal immigrant who ‘shot and killed California cop during a traffic stop’ are indicted for ‘attempting to smuggle him to safety in Mexico’
- Gustavo Perez Arriaga, 32, was charged with Ronil Singh’s murder this month
- Singh, 33, was killed after he pulled over Arriaga on a DUI suspicion last month
- Officials said Arriaga had been planning to flee to Mexico following the shooting
- Seven people in total had been arrested for helping Arriaga to evade the police
- Two of Arriaga’s brothers, a friend and his girlfriend were among the indicted
Seven friends and relatives of a Mexican gang member accused of killing a California cop were indicted on federal charges for allegedly helping the man attempt to flee to Mexico, federal officials said Friday.
The group allegedly aided Gustavo Perez Arriaga, 32, after he shot and killed 33-year-old Newman Police Cpl Ronil Singh during a traffic stop the day after Christmas last year.
‘When individuals act to thwart law enforcement’s efforts, they undermine the safety of those officers and the public as a whole,’ U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott in a statement.
‘Today’s indictment is a significant step toward holding accountable those who chose to harbor and conceal the man accused of killing a police officer in Newman Corporal Ronil Singh.’
Those indicted include: Erik Razo Quiroz, 29, of Merced; Adrian Virgen-Mendoza, 25, of Fairfield; Conrado Virgen Mendoza, 34, of Chowchilla; Erasmo Villegas-Suarez, 36, of Buttonwillow; Ana Leydi Cervantes-Sanchez, 31, of Newman; Bernabe Madrigal-Castaneda, 59, of Lamont; and Maria Luisa Moreno, 57, of Lamont.
All of those indicted were charged with conspiring to hide Arriaga and smuggle him back into Mexico.
They allegedly helped him by giving him clothes, money, a phone and even hiding his pickup truck.
Razo Quiroz was also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and being an alien in possession of a firearm, court documents said.
The seven also face state charges for helping Perez Arriaga try to flee to avoid prosecution and lying to investigators.
Arriaga, 32, was officially charged with murder earlier this month over Singh’s death.
Singh had pulled over Arriaga, who authorities said was in the country illegally, on suspicion of driving under the influence.
Arriaga’s charges included a special circumstance enhancement that would make his case eligible for the death penalty. The last execution that took place in California was in 2006.
The complaint also included enhancements for allegedly using a gun in Singh’s death and acting with premeditation, according to the Modesto Bee.
It is not yet known if prosecutors will plan to seek the death penalty.
Seven people total have been arrested for helping Arriaga evade police before he was finally arrested on Friday following a 55-hour manhunt.
Officials said Arriaga had been preparing to flee to Mexico before his arrest.
Singh’s brother delivered an emotional speech earlier this month after Arriaga was arrested.
Reggie Singh broke down in tears before speaking in a news conference as police informed the public that Arriaga was in custody.
He had to be physically helped up by authorities for support as he showed gratitude to police for Arriaga’s capture.
‘Please bear with me, this is not easy for me. Ronil Singh was my older brother. Yes, he’s not coming back but…’ Reggie trailed off as he wept.
‘There’s a lot of people out there that miss him and a lot of law enforcement people that I don’t know that worked days and nights to make this happen. I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart.’
Clutching the left side of his chest, Reggie’s appeal to the public was mostly a show of appreciation for the investigating cops.
‘I wish I could thank all the law enforcement agencies, Homeland Security in San Francisco, everyone. Bakersfield team…’ he continued to sob.
‘I was waiting for this to happen. I’d like to thank you for working day and night to make this happen. Thank you.’
Singh was married and had a five-month-old son. He was also an immigrant, coming to the US legally from his native Fiji to pursue his dream of serving in law enforcement, authorities said. He joined the 12-officer Newman police force in 2011.
‘He was living the American dream,’ said Stanislaus County sheriff’s Deputy Royjinder Singh, who is not related to the slain officer but knew him.
‘He loved camping, loved hunting, loved fishing, loved his family.’
Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said Arriaga illegally entered the US through Arizona several years ago and was a part of the notoriously violent Sureños street gang.
Christianson said that the motive behind the shooting is not clear and cops believe Arriaga was alone at the time of the suspected murder.
Arriaga worked various farm labor jobs and had a track record of two previous DUIs.
Sheriff Christianson blamed California’s sanctuary laws from preventing police from reporting Arriaga to federal immigration officials following his previous DUI arrests.
He said if Arriaga was deported, Singh could still be here today.
Cops at first did not release Arriaga’s name or age because he goes by several aliases and has several Facebook pages under different names.
He had to be identified by fingerprint with police, according to The Modesto Bee.
For Newman Police and Singh’s family, Arriaga’s arrest is a step towards justice.
Singh stopped the car after noticing it had no license plate.
After Singh approached Arriaga’s gray Dodge pickup truck in Newman, he called ‘shots fired’ over his radio.
Singh fired back to defend himself. He was found with multiple bullet wounds and was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Arriaga had already fled the scene before backup arrived.
The Sheriff’s office released surveillance photos of the suspect shopping at a local store and pictures of his Dodge pickup truck.
Arriaga’s Dodge truck was found 13 hours later abandoned at a River Road mobile home park registered to his brother Conrado Mendoza.
The car gave investigators plenty of evidence including fingerprints, DNA, and gunshot residue.
Outgoing California Gov Jerry Brown offered condolences to Singh’s family after his death and said flags at the Capitol would fly at half-staff in his honor.
‘Our hearts are with the entire community of Newman and law enforcement officers across the state who risk their lives every day to protect and serve the people of California,’ Brown said.
A memorial fund has been set up by the police department in his honor.