KERN COUNTY, Calif. — A deputy with the Kern County California Sheriff’s Office was shot and killed this weekend when the department’s SWAT team tried to rescue people held hostage inside a San Joaquin Valley home by a man armed with an AK-47-style rifle and a handgun, authorities said Monday.
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood identified the slain deputy as Phillip Campas and called him “a star in our organization.”
Thirty-five-year-old Campas was a five-year veteran of the sheriff’s office. Prior to becoming a deputy he served as a U.S. Marine in Afghanistan. He was also an instructor at the sheriff’s academy, as well as a member of the department’s SWAT team and the honor guard, KTLA reported.
In addition to Campas, four other people were killed in the bloody gunfire, including the gunman, according to Lt. Joel Swanson, a spokesperson for the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.
The unnamed suspect had been previously arrested multiple times for domestic violence offenses, according to law enforcement authorities. Moreover, a victim at the residence had a restraining order against the individual now believed responsible for the mass shooting.
The three murder victim’s inside the Wasco home are believed to be the gunman’s sons, 17 and 24, and their mother, 42. Two women and two girls were able to escape the home safely.
The shooting “has the implications of what we see in law enforcement when it comes to domestic violence and how serious it is,” Sheriff Youngblood said, “and, quite frankly, how a restraining order is not bulletproof.”
The suspect was fatally shot by deputies after he began climbing onto the roof of the home with his firearms, KTLA reported.
Campas is survived by his wife and three children, ages 6, 9 and 13, according to the Kern Law Enforcement Association.
“We thought he’d been here over 10 years, he’s had that kind of impact,” Youngblood said. “He was here for five.”
Deputy Dizander Guerrero was also wounded by gunfire and two deputies were struck by shrapnel during the encounter.
The violence began early Sunday afternoon, around 1 p.m.. The sheriff’s office received a 911 call that had an open line into the home. The activity heard on the call led deputies to believe at least one person was still alive inside the home, according to Youngblood.
“We felt obligated to go in and try and rescue that victim,” the sheriff said.
The first deputies to arrive at the home, following multiple 911 calls, were met by one of the women who had escaped. She confirmed that a gunman was inside the home and two to three people had been shot, KTLA reported.
Within minutes the gunman began firing at deputies. A SWAT team, including Campas and Guerrero, approached the front door and encountered gunfire from a rifle. The deputies returned fired.
Campas and Guerrero were struck and pulled to a safe location so they could be transported to the hospital. Two other deputies were hit by shrapnel but did not leave the standoff, the sheriff said.
During the course of several hours, the suspect sporadically fired out of the house at deputies. Finally, about 6:30 p.m., the gunman climbed onto the roof with the rifle and handgun. Deputies fired and took him out at that position.
When the house was cleared, deputies discovered three victims dead inside.