ALTURAS, Calif. (AP) — A sheriff’s deputy shot dead in rural northern California was killed by a man listed in state records as a registered sex offender shortly after the deputy arrived at a home to investigate a domestic disturbance, authorities said Thursday.
Deputy Jack Hopkins, 31, died instantly Wednesday morning and the suspect, Jack Lee Breiner, was arrested after a chase and shootout with another officer that left both wounded, the Modoc County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
Hopkins was the fourth California law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty over the last two weeks.
Breiner is listed in California’s sex offender registry as having committed lewd or lascivious acts with a child ages 14 or 15 and annoying or molesting a child under age 18. The sheriff’s office did not return calls seeking additional comment about Breiner.
Modoc County District Attorney Jordan Funk told the Redding Record Searchlight newspaper that Breiner was still hospitalized Thursday and it was too early to say what charges he would face but that the intentional killing of an on-duty police officer is punishable by the death penalty.
The killing of Hopkins happened at a property about eight miles south of the town of Alturas, population 3,000, which bills itself as a place “where the west still lives” near California’s border with Oregon.
The sheriff’s office statement did not describe where on the property Hopkins was shot but said the deputy had “entered the property to investigate the call when he confronted the main suspect” and was killed.
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It characterized the call Hopkins was responding to as a domestic disturbance but did not provide further details.
“The entire law enforcement community of our region and state grieves the irrevocable loss of deputy Hopkins,” the sheriff’s office said.
After Hopkins was killed, Breiner fled in a vehicle and was wounded in a shootout with Modoc County Sheriff Mike Poindexter, who was also responding to the disturbance call, the statement said. Poindexter suffered an unspecified minor wound.
Hopkins joined the sheriff’s department last year, after working for the Alturas Police department, the sheriff’s office said.
“He was a good friend, good law enforcement officer,” Sgt. Mike Main told the Redding Record Searchlight. “He meant a lot to all of us, and we’re all hurting.”
His death comes after two Palm Springs police officers were shot and killed Oct. 8 responding a domestic disturbance call and after a Los Angeles County sheriff’s sergeant was gunned down Oct. 6 in the high desert town of Lancaster while answering a burglary call.
The killings in California are the latest in a string of fatal attacks on officers that includes ambushes in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Modoc County is nestled between the Nevada and Oregon borders, in California’s high desert region.
It spans about 4,000 square miles and its northern part is called the Modoc Plateau — a mile high expanse of lava flows, cinder cones, juniper flats, and pine forests.
Recreational enthusiasts flock to the nearly Modoc National Forest for hunting, hiking and fishing.
Hopkins body was being taken Thursday to relatives in Redding, California.