A twice-deported illegal immigrant who was protected by California’s “sanctuary state” policies, which prevent law enforcement from holding criminal illegal immigrants requested by ICE, died Monday after going on a 24-hour “personal reign of terror” in which he killed a man, wounded several, robbed a store, carjacked a vehicle, and forced police to pursue him in a dangerous high-speed chase after engaging in a shootout with law enforcement.
Gustavo Garcia, 36, had a lengthy criminal record dating back to 2002. Along with his presence in the country illegally — for which he was deported twice, once in 2004 and again in 2014 — Garcia has faced drug and illegal weapons charges, serving 27 months in federal prison. Before his second deportation, Garcia also had three ICE violations, Fox News reports.
Despite his lengthy rap sheet, California protected Garcia from ICE. Just two days before his deadly “reign of terror,” Garcia was held in Tulare County jail for 10 hours after he was arrested for being under the influence of a controlled substance.
“Before Garcia’s release, ICE officials alerted deputies that Garcia was a criminal with a violent past who had been deported once in 2004 and again in 2014,” the Visalia Times-Delta reports. But, because of California’s “sanctuary” laws, the sheriff’s office was unable to comply with ICE’s detention request and was forced to release Garcia back into the public.
Two days later, Garcia shot and killed a man and injured several others, one of them critically, before Garcia himself died after being ejected from the stolen truck after a high-speed pursuit by officers that followed a harrowing shootout.
“We have one man that essentially [has] been on a personal reign of terror,” Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux told the press at a news conference.
The sheriff expressed deep “frustration” about being hamstrung by the state’s sanctuary laws. “The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office is equally as frustrated with this situation,” Boudreaux said, citing ICE’s lament about the needless suffering caused by releasing Garcia. “Because of California law, detainers can no longer be recognized by local law enforcement.”
“This is an unfortunate and extremely tragic example of how public safety is impacted with laws or policies limiting local law enforcement agencies’ ability to cooperate with ICE,” immigration authorities said in a statement.
Garcia’s murderous campaign started around 1 p.m. Sunday, when he shot and wounded a farm worker before robbing a convenience store at gunpoint of $2,000 in cash. A little over six hours later, around 7:30 p.m., Garcia shot a female guest at a Motel 6 in both the chest and arm. Neither the farm worker’s or the guest’s wounds are critical.
Garcia’s rampage, the victims of which appear to have been mostly random, continued early morning Monday, when he shot up a gas station nearly Pixley at around 1:30 a.m., and then shot and killed Rocky Paul Jones, 51, at another gas station an hour later.
After firing shots from the backyard of his ex-girlfriend’s home in Visalia, where Garcia had been living, he fired at a home in the Sultana area, and then engaged in a brief police chase, which included him firing at sheriff’s cruisers, and ended with him wrecking the car. After a shootout (shown in the video below), Garcia stole a truck and led officers on another dangerous chase that topped speeds of 100 mph, Fox News notes.
After smashing into four other cars — one driver of which is in critical condition while the others suffered minor wounds — Garcia died, being reportedly thrown from the truck.
Police have since released body cam footage of the frantic shootout with Garcia prior to his theft at gunpoint of the truck (h/t John Sexton):