Multiple ambushes leave three officers wounded and a deputy in guarded condition
PASO ROBLES – The nearly two-day manhunt for the man who shot several officers and allegedly killed a homeless man ended the way it began — with gunfire.
The suspected shooter, Mason James Lira, 26, of Monterey, was shot dead near the Salinas riverbed east of the Highway 101 and Highway 46 West interchange on the south end of Paso Robles at approximately 4:15 p.m. on Thursday, June 11. The handguns he used in his shooting spree were found next to his body.
“I’m glad this is finally over,” said Paso Robles Police Department Police Chief Ty Lewis during a press conference Thursday evening from the Sheriff’s Office substation in Templeton. “It’s been really a tough go.”
A CHP officer and Kings County Sheriff’s Office deputy were wounded during the final exchange of gunfire with Lira around 4 p.m. The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office reported the suspect was “down,” effectively putting an end to the intense search that started around 3 a.m. Wednesday morning in Downtown Paso Robles.
The CHP officer wearing his protective vest was hit in the chest. The Kings County deputy was shot in the leg above the knee.
An Arroyo Grande Police Department officer was shot in the leg earlier by Lira in the area of Ramada Drive and Volpi Ysabel Road.
“I want everybody in the community to pray for our officers that were injured during this, they are heroes and they need to be recognized as such,” Lewis said. “There are officers from every agency in this county here today,” Lewis added. They all banded together to protect the community, and it really does reflect the best of what our community is made of in the law enforcement ranks and the professionalism, and I hope the community recognizes that.”
The AG officer was a member of the San Luis Obispo Regional SWAT Team, assisting the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office with the search for Lira.
“Every time that law enforcement got near to him, he engaged them in gunfire,” Lewis said.
All of the wounded officers were treated at nearby hospitals and were expected to survive.
The initial search began early Wednesday morning after Lira reportedly shot numerous times at the Paso Robles Police Department station in Downtown Paso Robles and continued to shoot at law enforcement as they exited and arrived at the station.
San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Deputy Nicholas Dreyfus was shot by the gunman in the face and taken to a trauma center outside of the area, according to the Sheriff’s Office. He was transported to a local hospital and then flown to a trauma center out of the area where he underwent successful surgery. He was listed in guarded condition and his prognosis is good.
While authorities searched for the shooter, business owners near the Paso Robles Amtrak train station, a few blocks south of the police station, alerted police to a dead body. A 59-year-old homeless man was found dead with a single gunshot from “close proximity” to the head.
Police believe the shooter, Lira, was responsible for the death of the homeless man. Detectives surmised the homeless man was shot before Lira turned his attention to the Paso Robles police station.
“We are not 100 percent sure yet but we believe at this point that it happened early on,” Lewis said. “That that might have been one of the first things he did was to commit the homicide and then progress toward the police department.”
At about 10:20 p.m Wednesday, a report of shots being fired in the area of Spring Street and Fourth Street. As PRPD officers arrived, Lira shot at police and fled into a nearby apartment complex.
Not long after, Lira was seen again by officers near Ramada Drive and Highway 46 West and again started shooting.
Lira was spotted on video, making a purchase at a Chevron gas station on Ramada Drive around 2 a.m. Thursday morning.
The search for Lira continued from the air and on the ground, focusing on the riverbed south of the gas station behind the businesses until he was ultimately surrounded by officers Thursday afternoon.
“This is a tough time for us,” SLO County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said. “We still have a tremendous amount to do right now with this investigation. The investigation will continue; it will continue through the night. We have a tremendous amount of physical evidence to process at the scene and also to evaluate.”
Investigators believe Lira had been in Paso Robles since being released June 3 from jail in Monterey on criminal threats charges. They also collected evidence that showed Lira was living in a crawl space near Park Cinemas in Downtown Paso Robles.
The Paso Robles Police Department is leading the homicide investigation and the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office was heading the search.
“This was not by any means a happy ending, this was not happy,” Parkinson said. “If we could rewind this and he never engaged the police department, never engaged our officers, never shot my deputy that would make me happy if we could rewind to that moment.
“This was not a win. This is an end to something that we wished never happened and I really believe that this community doesn’t want to happen. The only fortunate thing about it is the community is safe tonight from this event,” Parkinson added.