A California deputy was shot dead and another wounded while attempting to free hostages being held by a gunman during an hours-long standoff, according to officials.
Kern County SWAT officer Phillip Campas — a Marine veteran — was killed while trying to storm a house in Wasco Sunday afternoon amid reports that hostages were “down,” officials said.
Another SWAT officer was also hit, suffering “moderate” injuries, Kern County Lt. Joel Swanson told reporters at the scene.
Deputies had first responded around 1 p.m. Sunday to calls of “possibly subjects down” inside the house — with “shooting in the background” heard in some of the 911 calls, Swanson said from the scene, about 25 miles northwest of Bakersfield.
“When deputies arrived … a subject inside the residence began shooting at the deputies,” Swanson said.
“The deputies at that time were not struck but took cover,” he added, with the entire neighborhood locking down as the SWAT team was called.
The SWAT team attempted to enter the house just before 3 p.m. and “the subject began firing at them from inside of the residence,” Swanson said.
“Two of our deputies were struck,” he said, with union officials and neighborhood departments among those identifying the fallen officer as Campas.
The suspect continued shooting at the SWAT team outside the house — until he was hit when officers finally entered the home at around 6:30 p.m., some five-and-a-half hours after the standoff started.
He was taken to a hospital in unknown condition, Swanson said. He was not immediately identified.
Two other people were also found inside the home with gunshot wounds. Their conditions or relationships to the suspect were not immediately known.
An American flag covering what appeared to be a casket was taken from Kern Medical and loaded into a van with the words “coroner transport” on the dashboard, according to video from KGET-TV.
Dozens stood in regard — some saluting, others with their hand over their heart — as the van drove away from the facility Sunday evening.
Wasco Mayor Alex Garcia called confirmation of the officer’s death “news that every Mayor prays to never get.”
“I would like to share that my heart goes out to the families of both the deputies,” the mayor said in a statement. “Nothing can prepare us for tragedies such as these. In an instant our lives can change forever.”
The Kern County 999 Foundation called it “a very dark and sad day for everyone involved.”
“Godspeed, Deputy Campas! We will take it from here, sir,” the group said.
With Post wires