A gunman believed to have shot a Central California sheriff's deputy and targeted others in a series of attacks was shot dead Thursday after confrontations that wounded three other law enforcement members, authorities said. Mason James Lira, 26, was killed after he emerged from a brushy riverbed in Paso Robles, climbed a steep hillside and ran toward a vineyard, authorities said; he had allegedly been shooting at officers from the riverbed and while running away. He had two stolen handguns and investigators found a box of ammunition, Paso Robles Police Chief Ty Lewis said. He clearly had been planning attacks on law enforcement, possibly for days, the chief said. Over the course of about 36 hours, Lira opened fire in an ambush and managed to evade hundreds of law enforcement officers, authorities said. “Every time that law enforcement got near to him, he engaged them in gunfire,” Lewis said at an evening news conference.
The manhunt for Lira began at dawn Wednesday, when authorities said he opened fire on the Paso Robles police station. Two sheriff’s deputies heard gunshots and responded but didn’t see the attacker until they were outside their patrol car and under fire. Deputy Nicholas Dreyfus, 28, was hit in the face. His partner fired back and dragged Dreyfus behind a police car. Dreyfus, who was able to radio that he’d been shot, underwent surgery Thursday and was in guarded condition. While scores of officers searched for Lira, they received a report of a body near a train station and found a 58-year-old man shot to death on the tracks. He appeared to be a transient who was camping out overnight. Police believe Lira was responsible for the killing. Lira’s father told the AP his son had been in and out of jail and treatment centers and had schizophrenia, Asperger’s syndrome, and ADHD, and that he thinks the shooting at the police station might have been a suicide attempt.
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