A man and woman opened fire on guards at an entrance to an American Indian reservation and fled into its hilly interior, where they were killed in a gun battle with sheriff's deputies and a police commando team, authorities said Tuesday. It was the second deadly gunfight involving deputies on the reservation in five days.
The motive for the Monday night attack was unknown, said Riverside County Sheriff's Department spokesman Dennis Gutierrez. The guards were unhurt, as were the officers involved in the shootout.
The gunfire began at a guard station on a road a few hundred yards from a casino operated by the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians, who have a 3,170-acre reservation on the foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
One of the victims was identified as Joseph Arres, 36, of San Jacinto, Gutierrez said. The name of the woman had yet to be released.
At least one of the dead was a tribal member, said James Fletcher, superintendent for the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs' Southern California Agency. He would not say which one.
Assault rifles used
The weapons used were a Russian-made SKS rifle that is illegal in California and an AR-15 with a high-capacity drum, Gutierrez said. The tribal security guards called the emergency dispatcher for assistance.
A responding sheriff's helicopter and deputies on the ground were fired upon, he said. Two windows of a patrol car were shot out, and an armored vehicle was left with a bullet hole in a door.
The attackers fled seven miles up a dirt road into the reservation, where they were eventually killed in a standoff with five deputies and four members of a police commando team, Gutierrez said. He would not say how many shots were fired.
The law enforcement officers involved were placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation.
Second fatal shooting in less than a week
It was the second fatal shooting by deputies on the reservation in less than a week. On Thursday, deputies killed tribal member Eli Morillo, 26, after he began shooting at them with an assault rifle.
The Press-Enterprise of Riverside reported that Morillo was a member of a prominent Soboba family.
A sheriff's investigator told the paper that sheriff's deputies were patrolling the reservation early Thursday when they came under fire from assault rifles. Morillo was killed, and a huge search was launched for two other people.
Morillo's brother, Peter, 27, was killed in October 2002 in a gunfight with sheriff's deputies who went to his Valle Vista home to check on the welfare of two children, the newspaper said. Two deputies were injured but recovered.
Fletcher, of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, said Soboba leadership has been angry with the Sheriff's Department for at least six months. The tribe had an agreement with the department for patrol assistance but terminated it for unknown reasons, he said.
The tribal Web site says it has about 900 members, but many live in communities neighboring the reservation. The Soboba Casino has operated since 1995.