Location: Multiple locations in Tulare County
Incident Date: 12/16/18-12/17/18
Victim: Multiple victims
City: Tulare County
Posted by: Media Relations
Sheriff Mike Boudreaux announced Monday that one suspect’s reign of terror had come to an end, thanks to the collaborative efforts of local law enforcement agencies.
What began Sunday as an attempted murder of a farmworker in an orchard and an armed robbery at a mini mart minutes later in Exeter, evolved into a crime spree around Tulare County, including the murder of a man at a gas station in Visalia, shootings in Pixley, Sultana, another shooting in Visalia and an attempted murder at the Motel 6 in Tulare.
Lindsay Police are also investigating a murder, they believe, involved the same suspect.
That suspect, Gustavo Garcia, 36, of Visalia, fired shots at Tulare County Sheriff’s Deputies on Road 140 and Avenue 256 at 6:40 a.m. Monday and Deputies returned fire.
“They ran into harm’s way,” Sheriff Boudreaux said. “They truly are heroes.”
Garcia escaped into a nearby orchard where he carjacked a vehicle at gunpoint from three farmworkers. A multi-agency perimeter was set up and when the suspect drove out of the orchard, a chase began.
Garcia didn't stop until he was killed during a multi-vehicle crash he caused by driving the wrong way at high speeds on Highway 65 at Linda Vista in Porterville just after 7 a.m. Monday. Garcia was thrown from his vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene.
Several people were hurt during the crash and one of them is in critical condition.
“The suspect’s life ended in the traffic accident but we can say that his reign of terror is over,” Sheriff Boudreaux said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims.”
Joining Sheriff Boudreaux at a press conference Monday were Visalia Police Chief Jason Salazar, California Highway Patrol Lt. Scott Goddard, Exeter Police Chief John Hall, and Tulare Interim Police Chief Matt Machado.
About 1 p.m. on Sunday a farmworker was shot while picking fruit in the area of Filbert and Balamm in Exeter.
Only three minutes later, the A A Gas and Grub mini mart on South Kaweah Avenue in Exeter was robbed at gunpoint.
Detectives tracked down surveillance video and discovered the car involved in both crimes was the same vehicle, a silver Honda Pilot. The suspect seen on the video robbing the convenience store was the same man seen driving the car away from the shooting.
The suspect was identified as Gustavo Garcia, 36.
The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office sent out a media alert, asking the public for information as to the location of the suspect.
Garcia continued his crime spree.
Two hours after the armed robbery, Lindsay Police believe he may have been involved in a shooting that left one man dead on North Harvard Avenue, in Lindsay.
At 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Garcia tried to shoot and kill a woman at the Motel 6 in Tulare.
Around 7:45 p.m. Sunday evening, Garcia was involved in an assault with a deadly weapon incident on West Oriole Avenue, in Visalia.
At 1:24 a.m. Monday, the Sheriff’s Office believes Garcia fired shots into the Shell Gas Station in Pixley.
Just an hour later, Visalia Police Officers responded to a “shots fired” call at the AM/PM gas station on Lovers Lane. When police arrived at the scene, they found one man dead.
“We believe Garcia was the shooter in that murder,” Sheriff Boudreaux said.
Less than an hour after the murder at the AM/PM, around 3:15 a.m. Monday, Garcia fired shots into a home on Sowell Street in Visalia.
Thirty minutes later, he also fired shots into a home in Sultana.
At 5 a.m. Monday, Visalia Police got into a short pursuit with him near Ben Maddox Way and Mineral King Avenue.
“His reign of terror came to an end a short time later,” Sheriff Boudreaux said.
At 6:40 a.m. Monday, Tulare County Sheriff’s deputies spotted Garcia in the area of Road 140 and Avenue 256 in Visalia. That’s when he shot at deputies, who then fired back.
Garcia next ran into a nearby orchard, carjacked a vehicle and drove off.
Visalia Police Officers were able to catch up with the carjacked vehicle and Tulare County Sheriff’s Deputies followed behind them, as Garcia led them on a chase.
By this time, multiple agencies from around the county were assisting.
The chase eventually ended just after 7 a.m. when Garcia crashed on Highway 65 at Linda Vista Place. He had been driving southbound in the north bound lanes at speeds of more than 100 mph. The crash involved several other vehicles and at least one victim is in critical condition.