Officer wounded in Central California shootout is taken off life support

By Tracie Cone, AP
Monday, March 1, 2010

Life support ends for Calif. officer in shootout

FRESNO, Calif. — After praying four days for a miracle, the family of a California police officer critically wounded in a gunbattle seemed to accept Monday it wasn’t going to happen.

At 5:30 a.m., they allowed doctors to remove the life support that had sustained Reedley police Officer Javier Bejar since he was shot Thursday.

The Reedley Police Department said in a prepared statement it regretted the loss of Bejar.

Now, law enforcement agencies in Fresno County are planning funerals for two decorated veterans who died when a paranoid security guard with an arsenal of weapons who said he preferred death to prison and would take officers with him if necessary.

Julia Mendoza, whose son grew up with Bejar, said the officer was a former U.S. Marine who grew up in Orange Cove, a nearby citrus-growing town. He said Friday that Bejar’s family was waiting for God to perform a miracle.

Bejar, 28, joined the rural department in 2005 and served a tour of duty in Iraq after rising through the ranks as a teenage police Explorer Scout.

Authorities said he was shot with a high-powered rifle from 80 yards away by Rick “Ricky” Ray Liles, 51, as Bejar crouched behind his patrol car to back up sheriff’s deputies serving a search warrant on Liles at his mobile home in the village of Minkler.

“This has absolutely traumatized our city and our department,” said police Chief Steve Wright, tears welling.

Liles died during the shootout, likely taking his own life with a gunshot to the head, authorities said.

Bejar was the department officer of the year in 2007 and received a lifesaving medal last year.

“He has been just the poster child for our department,” Wright said. “Every day he walked in it was a handshake and a hug. He was a fine man, fine husband and a fine officer.”

Fresno County sheriff’s detective Joel Wahlenmaier, 49, was killed trying to serve the warrant with a fire investigator and backup from nine other officers. Liles apparently fired the AR-15 rifle through the front door of his trailer when officers tried to serve him with the warrant.

Deputy Mark Harris suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

More than 150 officers, including SWAT teams from three cities, descended on Minkler, a town of 30 on the highway to Kings Canyon National Park. A total of 24 sworn officers from six law enforcement agencies fired as many as 400 shots into the trailer during the standoff.

Investigators counted 535 entry and exit holes after the siege ended.

Memorial services for Wahlenmaier will be held at Peoples Church at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Burial will follow at Clovis Cemetery. Services for the Fresno native are open to the public.

Bejar’s service plans are incomplete, but the funeral could be held as early as Friday.

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