Calif. Man Who Shot Deputy in Ambush Attack Is Killed in Standoff that Wounded 3 Officers
Police are investigating why Mason James Lira, 26, ambushed the Paso Robles police station before setting off on a shooting spree that left 1 dead and 4 wounded
A California man who shot a deputy in the face after lying in wait and ambushing the Paso Robles Police Department was killed in a tense, two-hour standoff that left 3 officers wounded.
Mason James Lira, 26, a transient man from Monterey, was shot and killed in a riverbed in Paso Robles in Central California, following a massive two-day manhunt that ended in a shootout, the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office says in a release.
“They had made commands for him to surrender, and instead he began to fire back at our officers and deputies,” San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office spokesman, Tony Cipolla, told The New York Times.
Lira's death ended a two-day killing spree that took the life of a 58-year-old homeless man and wounded 4 officers – one severely, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The crime spree started at 3:45 a.m. Wednesday when on-duty staff at the Paso Robles Police Department saw an armed man outside, later identified as Lira, who began firing at the building and at patrol cars, the sheriff’s office says.
"This was a planned ambush on the police department," San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said at a press conference, NBC News reports. "He remained waiting for officers to arrive."
At 4:19 a.m., two deputies from the sheriff’s office were searching the downtown area for Lira when he fired at them, hitting one of them in the face.
With bullets flying, the second deputy returned fire before he “grabbed his wounded partner” and moved him to safety where he "rendered medical aid,” the release says.
Firefighters from the Paso Robles Fire Department raced to pick up the wounded officer, later identified as Nicholas Dreyfus, 28, and rush him to a local hospital. He was flown to a trauma center where he is listed in serious but stable condition.
The bullet is still lodged in his head, local station KPIX reports.
Authorities launched a massive manhunt for Lira, with the FBI, the California Highway Patrol and the Sheriff’s office aiding in the search.
While hunting for Lira, officers found the body of a 58-year-old homeless man at the Paso Robles Amtrak station at 7 a.m. who had been shot in the head at close range, say police.
At 2:10 p.m., on Thursday, while police were searching for Lira along the Salinas River when he shot an officer at Ramada Drive and Volpi Ysabel Road before opening fire on other officers who tried to help, wounding two of them.
Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE’s free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.
Fleeing the riverbed, Lira headed to nearby Highway 101 when he was shot and killed in a shootout, the release says.
He was pronounced dead at the scene.
He was found in possession of two stolen handguns, say police.
The wounded officers were transported to local area hospitals and are listed in good condition with non-life-threatening injuries.
Lira has suffered from mental illness for years and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and Asperger’s, his father, Jose Lira, told The New York Times.
“My son is very dangerous,” Jose Lira told The Times. “I slept with a gun in my bed last night because he’s threatened all of the family.”
His son wasn’t taking his medication at the time of the ambush, Lira, told the Associated Press.
“He lives in a fantasy world,” Lira told the AP. “He doesn’t have a beef with the police.”