Seven additional men have been arrested in connection with the murder of Newman, California, Police officer Ronil Singh, for helping suspect Gustavo Perez Arriaga try to flee into Mexico, authorities say.
ABC News reports that Arriaga was hoping to escape back to his home country of Mexico with the help of his girlfriend, family members, and co-workers, after he allegedly shot and killed Singh during a routine traffic stop in northern California on Wednesday. Arriaga was in the United States illegally.
"An undocumented immigrant with known gang affiliations, the 32-year-old Arriaga tried to flee to Mexico after his alleged crime, authorities said Friday. Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said that Arriaga crossed into Arizona from Mexico illegally a couple of years ago and it is believed that he had been working on farms in California's Central Valley," according to ABC News. Arriaga had at least two prior arrests on his record, both for driving under the influence.
When Singh pulled Arriaga over early Wednesday morning, it was because he suspected Arriaga of drunken driving. After a brief confrontation which quickly developed into a firefight, Singh was killed. He leaves behind a wife and a five month old son.
Arriaga was eventually captured near Bakersfield, California, nearly 200 miles south of where the initial murder took place.
"By late Friday night, a total of seven people had been arrested for either misleading authorities about Arriaga’s whereabouts or aiding him in evading authorities – including a woman described as Arriaga’s girlfriend and two of his brothers, according to police officials and ABC-owned station KFSN," the outlet continued.
The case, which opened just as the president and Congress clashed over illegal immigration and how best to control it, has highlighted the impact illegal immigration has on law enforcement, and the dangers of unfettered movement across the United States' southern border.
In an interview with Fox News on Thursday, the officer in charge of investigating Singh's murder, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson, drove home the connection between Singh's murder and the issue at the forefront of a Congressional budget battle.
"Because I want the nation to know, I want your viewers to know, that Officer Singh really should be the focus of this investigation and his sacrifice. But I also want everybody to know that immigration is good for America, if done legally. Illegal immigration doesn't serve our communities, especially criminals who victimize and exploit our communities," Christianson told Fox.
"Whether you hate the president or love the president, border security goes hand-in-hand with national security, the safety of our communities, and public safety. We need to know who is in our communities that shouldn't be. We should be focusing on criminal activity without political interference," he continued.
He repeated his criticisms in a press conference on Friday announcing Arriaga's arrest, slamming California's "sanctuary state" laws that prevent law enforcement from prosecuting and deporting illegal immigrants captured during routine law enforcement actions.
"We were prohibited — law enforcement was prohibited because of sanctuary laws and that led to the encounter with officer Singh,” Christianson said. “The outcome could have been different if law enforcement wasn’t restricted, prohibited, or had their hands tied because of political interference.”
President Donald Trump echoed Christianson's statements late last week. "There is right now a full scale manhunt going on in California for an illegal immigrant accused of shooting and killing a police officer during a traffic stop," he tweeted Thursday. "Time to get tough on Border Security. Build the Wall!"
Ed note: This article originally referred to Sheriff Christianson as Officer Singh's boss. Christianson is, instead, the officer in charge of investigating Singh's death. The story has been updated to reflect the change and we apologize for the error.