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California

Mexican national in country illegally is charged with murder in death of California cop

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Gustavo Perez Arriaga in a booking photo.
(Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department)

Prosecutors have charged a man with murder in connection with the fatal shooting of a Central Valley police officer.

Gustavo Perez Arriaga, a Mexican national living in the country illegally, was charged Wednesday, according to John Goold, spokesman for the Stanislaus County district attorney’s office. At an arraignment that afternoon, Arriaga’s attorney declared his client incompetent to stand trial.

“Criminal proceedings were suspended as required by law and a doctor was appointed to examine the defendant and provide a report on whether or not he is legally competent to stand trial,” Goold said in an email.

In court, Arriaga told the judge his true name is Paulo Virgen Mendoza, according to local news outlets. A criminal complaint includes several aliases.

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His next court date is set for Feb. 7.

Authorities arrested Arriaga last week in the death of Newman Police Cpl. Ronil Singh on Dec. 26. The 33-year-old officer stopped Arriaga on suspicion of a probable DUI, authorities said.

Arriaga, who had two prior arrests for suspected drunk driving, tried to flee to his native Mexico after the fatal shooting, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said.

After Singh’s death, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a statement expressing concern “that California’s sanctuary laws continue to undermine public safety and cause preventable crimes by restricting law enforcement cooperation and allowing public safety threats back into the community to reoffend.”

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ICE had had no prior encounters with Arriaga.

There have been several arrests in connection with Singh’s death, including Arriaga’s two brothers, his girlfriend and a co-worker, who are facing charges of being accessories after the fact.

Last week, President Trump tweeted about the case: “Time to get tough on Border Security. Build the Wall!”

Local news outlets reported that dozens of demonstrators showed up outside the courthouse for Arriaga’s arraignment, holding signs that read “Blue Lives Matter” and “Make California Safe Again Amend SB-54.”

“I’m not here to talk about the president of the United States, but I will repeat what I said before,” Christianson said in a news conference last week. “Border security goes hand in hand with national security, goes hand in hand with public safety, goes hand in hand with the safety of our community.”

brittny.mejia@latimes.com

Twitter: @Brittny_Mejia

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