Gunman dead, 3 officers shot as Paso Robles manhunt comes to violent end
An intense manhunt for a gunman who wounded a San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s deputy ended Thursday with an altercation that left three police officers wounded and the suspect dead, authorities said.
Details of how the manhunt ended were not available. But a law enforcement source told The Times that three officers were seriously hurt during a standoff with the suspect. Their injuries do not appear to be life-threatening, the source said.
The gunman is believed to have killed a Paso Robles resident and seriously wounded a San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s deputy on Wednesday.
Mason James Lira, identified by police as the suspect, was spotted at a Paso Robles convenience store about 2 a.m. Thursday, a clerk told KSBY-TV.
The Chevron gas station clerk described the bearded Lira as sweaty, exhausted and muttering to himself, the TV station reported. Lira, seen on surveillance video wearing jeans and a long-sleeve pullover, didn’t do anything threatening, the clerk said, but he “seemed crazy” when he purchased an energy drink, according to the TV report.
Lira, a 26-year-old transient from the Monterey area, was gone when authorities arrived at the gas station, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Odom said.
The day before, an early morning shooting at a police station in downtown Paso Robles prompted a massive law enforcement response.
A man began shooting at the Police Department building about 3:45 a.m.
The gunman then fired at sheriff’s and California Highway Patrol cruisers as they arrived to assist police, Odom said. One deputy was shot in the face during the attack.
The deputy, identified as 28-year-old Nicholas Dreyfus, underwent surgery and is in guarded condition, officials said.
Residents were asked to shelter in place while a search for the shooter got underway.
During the search, detectives found the body of a man who had been shot in the head near the Amtrak station at 8th and Pine streets. The man, who has not been identified but was described as being in his 50s, was shot at close range, San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s spokesman Tony Cipolla said.
Lira had a history of run-ins with law enforcement, including an incident in Oregon in August in which a SWAT team boarded a train and took him into custody after he talked about weapons and threatened other passengers.
In Tulare County, he pleaded guilty in 2015 to battery on a peace officer. He was also accused of trespassing at a school in 2019 and failed to appear in court on that allegation. In June 2019, he was accused of providing a false identity to a police officer.
Two sources said that Lira’s motivation for the shootings remained unknown but that he struggled with mental health issues in the past.
As police searched for Lira, his father told the Associated Press that his son had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, Asperger’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Jose Lira said that his son had been in and out of jail and treatment centers and that he often thought he was a special agent or a soldier. Although authorities described the attack on the Paso Robles police station as an ambush, his father believed it might have been a suicide attempt.
His son lived in “a fantasy world” and didn’t have “a beef with the police,” Joe Lira said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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