PASO ROBLES, California (KGPE) – A manhunt is underway in Paso Robles as law enforcement continues to search for the gunman responsible for the fatal shooting of a homeless man – and a second shooting which seriously injured a sheriff’s deputy.
The suspect has been identified as 26-year-old Mason James Lira, a transient from the Monterey area. He has dark hair and weighs around 160 pounds. He is described as armed and dangerous.
Sheriff Ian Parkinson said the Lira shot at the police department just after 3 a.m. on Wednesday.
“This was a direct attack on law enforcement,” said Parkinson. “We had an unprovoked attack on law enforcement and in my opinion the act of a coward.”
Parkinson said several agencies from around the Central Coast came to assist. When they arrived at the scene, the deputies and the 26-year-old exchanged gunfire and one of the deputies was shot in the head.
“The deputy was an absolute hero,” said Parkinson. “Even calling out that he had been shot on the radio.”
The deputy was taken to the hospital. He is in stable but serious condition. The suspect ran from the scene.
Soon after, law enforcement report finding the body of a 58-year-old homeless man near the Paso Robles Amtrak station. Investigators said he was shot dead in the back of the head.
Parkinson said the animosity towards police in the past two weeks could be a factor in shootings.
“It is disappointing that these types of things are occurring all across the nation,” said Parkinson. “But when these things are happening in your own back yard and you have such an amazing county and amazing citizens in this county, it is even more disappointing. And even more troubling.”
Anyone with any information on the suspect is asked to call the Police Department or Sheriff’s Office. The FBI is also assisting with the investigation.
The downtown area of Paso Robles was under a shelter-in-place order for most of the day. It was lifted around 3:30 p.m.