A strange tale of a documented male gang member, a road rage incident and a female Ripon police officer came to a head Thursday when news that the man had turned himself in became public.
The officer is no longer employed with the department.
Michael Oneill Jr., 32, was being sought by Modesto Police officers after an October incident in which the Northern Ryder gang member allegedly punched a man in the face on the Pelandale Avenue off-ramp. The man then fled, and Oneill – who was reportedly driving the Jeep Rubicon of off-duty Ripon police officer Mindy Morris – chased the man through the streets of Modesto.
Morris, a seven-year veteran of the department, admitted in the arrest affidavit that she was dating Oneill and she was in vehicle when the entire exchange went down.
According to an article in the Modesto Bee, she was placed on administrative leave for failure to report a crime, active association with a known gang member and actions unbecoming an officer.
“I can’t really comment on the matter because it is a personnel issue,” Ripon Police Chief Ed Ormonde said. “She did resign, and we are in the middle of finishing up an internal investigation on the matter.
“We’re working right now on helping out neighboring agencies in any way possible as they investigate the matter further.”
Morris has not been charged with any crime.
Oneill pleaded not guilty to charges of battery and assault with a deadly weapon, and as of Friday morning he was no longer in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail.
But the incident was only the surface of what investigators believe could be an ongoing relationship between the gang Oneill is a member of and a Modesto bail agent.
Praveen Singh was arrested by Modesto Police officers in late November and charged with shooting at an occupied building and commissioning both a shooting and a robbery.
A yearlong investigation into Singh gave investigators the impression that he had developed a close relationship with members of the Northern Ryders – including Oneill – and was using them to exert influence over people inside of the Stanislaus County Jail and those that had been released.
He made bail last week, and in an interview with the Modesto Bee, declared his innocence.
“It’s very hard once your image is ruined in the community to build your image,” Singh said in the interview with The Bee. “That is what is frustrating: To build a reputation, it takes time; to lose it, it is overnight, and that is what is happening to me.”
But the charges surrounding Singh might be far more extensive.
He has also been identified as a “person of interest” in the disappearance of Turlock resident Korey Kauffman. The 26-year-old’s body was discovered in a remote area of Mariposa County back in August.
Records show that Singh made a phone call to the portion of the Stanislaus County Jail where Northern Ryder gang members are housed on the day that Kauffman disappeared.
In November, his father made a passionate plea to the Turlock Journal calling for anybody with information to come forward.
“Only those who have been through this can understand what it’s like to have your child’s life cut short over something so trivial,” he wrote. “The knowledge of never seeing him again in this life is unbearable at times. I won’t be helping him with his car, going fishing, taking him to the drag boat races or having him at the house for family gatherings.
“Most importantly, watch him have a family of his own.”