A statewide manhunt is underway to catch whoever shot a California Highway Patrol officer. Local, state, and federal law enforcement have teamed up, trying to find at least three people who sped away from a wild shootout along Highway 178 Sunday night.
The Sheriff's Department is taking the lead on the investigation. But, they are getting a lot of help from other agencies, including the FBI. The wounded officer's name has not been released, but deputies say he is very fortunate to be alive.
A major effort for a massive manhunt. A command center is set up, checking every lead with officers, deputies and agents placed in strategic locations across Kern County.
"We have in excess of 70 law enforcement officers actively working the investigation," said Ray Pruitt, Kern County Sheriff's Department.
The Sheriff's Department said around 10:45 Monday night, a CHP officer was checking for speeders along Highway 178 about five miles west of Lake Isabella, when a westbound SUV did something extremely unusual.
The driver made a U-turn and headed back toward the officer. "The window on the rear left side of the vehicle was lowered, and a suspect from the rear passenger side of the vehicle fired numerous rounds at the CHP officer's patrol car," continued Pruitt.
In a hail of bullets, the officer returned fire and was shot in the hand and chest, but his protective vest likely saved his life. After the shootout, the SUV took off toward Lake Isabella. The officer couldn't chase it because of a flat tire.
"We do believe the officer's gunfire did strike the vehicle and passenger side and did possibly blow out the rear cargo window," said Pruitt.
The Sheriff's Department says there were at least three men inside the vehicle, which is described as a mid-2000, dark blue SUV, possibly a GMC Yukon with 24-inch chrome rims and low profile tires.
The driver is described as Hispanic in his 20's, possibly wearing a white cowboy hat and a button-up shirt. The shooter in the back seat is also a Hispanic man in his 20's, wearing a light-colored tank top.
Investigators say the gun is likely a 9-millimeter automatic handgun, possibly a MAC-10 type.
"It appears it's just a random shooting. It does appear the CHP officer was targeted. We don't know what the motive is behind this shooting," continued Pruitt.
The wounded CHP officer was released from Kern Medical Center.
If you see a dark colored SUV that fits the description of the suspects' vehicle, call 911. If you have any information on the men inside the SUV, call the Sheriff's Department at 861-3110 or the Secret Witness Hotline at 322-4040.