LOS ANGELES (AP) — Authorities on Monday searched a rugged, five-square-mile area east of Bakersfield, California, as part of a six-day manhunt involving a killing, kidnapping and the wounding of two deputies.
Investigators haven’t confirmed the crimes were committed by the same man, said Kern County sheriff’s spokesman Ray Pruitt.
Dozens of deputies and helicopters combed the high desert area 30 miles from Bakersfield in 100-degree heat. The area is challenging for searchers because it’s sparsely populated with mobile homes, trailers, unoccupied homes, cabins, ranches and outbuildings.
“We’re having to move very slowly and meticulously,” Pruitt said. “This is a suspect we consider to be armed and very dangerous. He has shown he is not hesitant to engage law enforcement officers in a shootout.”
Authorities believe the man is on foot in the area where two elementary schools and a middle school have been closed indefinitely, Pruitt said. Residents were advised to stay inside and lock their doors and windows.
The manhunt began Tuesday after a squatter in a remote cabin was approached by three young men — two 20-year-olds and a 19-year-old from Bakersfield. They were greeted by a man who asked why they were on his property.
When one of the men said it was his cabin, the squatter pulled a shotgun and ordered them into the cabin where he held them for more than an hour and tthreatened to kill them.
The three men escaped and hiked several miles to a road.
Meanwhile, the suspect left in their car, which was found abandoned on Wednesday two miles away. Several firearms stolen from the men and the cabin also were found but not the shotgun.
On Thursday, 64-year old David Louis Markiewitz’s worried family found him fatally shot to death in his cabin about 10 miles from the first dwelling.
Pruitt didn’t know what type of weapon was used to kill the victim.
“It appears he’s been breaking into homes in the area that are unoccupied and gaining access to firearms,” Pruitt said of the fugitive.
On Saturday, SWAT deputies were entering a mobile home during their search when they were confronted by a man with a high-caliber handgun, Pruitt said.
The deputies returned fire and Deputy Michael Booker was struck twice by bullets — once in each arm — and airlifted to a hospital with severe injuries, Pruitt said. He remained hospitalized in stable condition. Senior Deputy Jose Perez was treated for a minor wound to his right ear.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has sent SWAT deputies and vehicles to aid the search.