By Caleb Lunetta & Emily Alvarenga
Signal Senior Staff Writers
Homicide detectives are investigating a deputy-involved shooting that left the suspect dead north of Templin Highway on Wednesday after the man attempted to flee from custody and dragged the deputy with his car, according to law enforcement officials.
The incident began around 12:15 p.m. when a Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputy conducted a traffic stop on a frontage road off Interstate 5, approximately 1 mile north of Templin Highway, according to Lt. Robert Westphal of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau.
“The deputy had the individual step out of the car and was taking him back to his patrol vehicle, [when] the suspect broke free from the deputy and ran up a dirt embankment to a dirt road adjacent to the freeway,” Westphal said.
The suspect, described as a Hispanic man in his mid-30s, reportedly made it back to his vehicle with the deputy in pursuit, and while the deputy was attempting to detain him, he drove away, according to Westphal.
“The suspect drove away with the deputy being dragged by his car,” Westphal added. “He crashed through a chain-link fence onto the shoulder of the southbound 5 freeway, still dragging the deputy.”
After crashing through the fence again, the deputy-involved shooting occurred, Westphal said.
“One suspect is down, and all deputies are accounted for,” said Law Enforcement Tech Einer Rivera, a spokesman with Sheriff’s Information Bureau, at 12:35 p.m.
According to a source at the scene, the suspect was pronounced dead after attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful. The Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopter that had been requested to take the suspect to the hospital was canceled, Fire Department representative Charisma Murrillo said.
The deputy was transported to a local hospital and treated for injuries to his leg and abrasions sustained while he was dragged, Westphal added.
Medical examiners with the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office confirmed they had been notified of a death at the location, however, had yet to respond to the scene as of 4:30 p.m. due to the active law enforcement investigation, according to spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani.
“Whenever a deputy-involved shooting occurs involving Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies, and a person is struck by gunfire, multiple independent investigations immediately begin at the scene,” read the 3:21 p.m. statement from SIB. “These include separate investigations by the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau and Internal Affairs Bureau.”
During the investigation, deputies found a handgun in the suspect’s vehicle, according to Westphal.
At 3:21 p.m., Deputy Alejandra Parra of SIB confirmed that a man “was struck by gunfire,” but added that “his condition was unknown at this time” and there was “no additional information available” at the time.
Traffic delays occurred in the area as first responders worked to clear the scene, with California Highway Patrol officers shutting down southbound lanes north of Templin Highway, near Vista Del Lago for the entire afternoon. The northbound side was also temporarily shut down in anticipation of the helicopter landing.
“We are assisting with scene safety and traffic control,” said Officer Josh Greengard, spokesman of the CHP Newhall-Area Office, at the time of the incident.
At 4 p.m., Officer Tony Polizzi, with the CHP Traffic Management Office, said the SigAlert had been extended until 9 p.m. — shutting down the No. 3 and 4 lanes on the southbound side of the I-5 near Vista Del Lago — due to the ongoing criminal investigation.
“Our investigation will be substantial, and it’ll take a considerable amount of time,” Westphal said, adding that neither the parties involved in the incident nor witnesses have yet been spoken with detectives as of 5 p.m.
The suspect has not yet been identified by the coroner as of the publication of this story.
Anyone with information about this incident can contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. If you wish to remain anonymous, call “LA Crime Stoppers” by dialing 800-222-TIPS (8477), using your smartphone by downloading the “P3 MOBILE APP” on Google play or the App Store, or using the website lacrimestoppers.org.