The Los Banos police officers shot during a gunfight with a suspect Monday have been identified as 34-year-old Kristifer Hew and 28-year-old Aaron Pinon.
Hew has been with the police department for five years, since March of 2012.
Pinon has been with the department for 18 months, since February of 2016.
The officers were shot around 6:18 a.m. Monday at a home in the Pacheco Village apartments on Gilbert Gonzalez Jr. Drive while struggling with 39-year-old Norberto Nieblas Reyes, who was shot and killed during the gunfight.
Nieblas Reyes, who was estranged from his wife and kids who live in the apartment, apparently broke into the home by climbing through a window, family members told police.
One of the officers tried to convince Nieblas Reyes to step outside the apartment to talk, but Nieblas Reyes was “argumentative” and combative, according to Police Chief Gary Brizzee.
Law enforcement sources have said that Nieblas Reyes fought with two officers and managed to grab one of their guns and shoot them both.
At least one of the officers returned fire and killed Nieblas Reyes, police said. Nieblas Reyes had a history of fighting with law enforcement and drug use, according to court and jail records.
Pinon was shot once in the upper torso. He was released from the hospital this week and is at home resting with family, police said.
Hew was shot three times, once each in the torso, leg and head, above an eye.
Hew was transferred to a Sacramento area hospital, going through surgery Thursday night to recover from his wounds, police said.
Brizzee declined to discuss details of the deadly struggle, citing a need to protect the ongoing investigation.
Brizzee said Friday that the police department’s investigation will include a review of physical evidence, witness statements and both officers’ body camera footage.
“To be as transparent as possible, we will ask for independent investigations,” Brizzee said, noting that several other agencies also were at the scene of the shooting.
Brizzee said the police department will make all of the evidence reviewed in the investigation available to the Merced County District Attorney’s Office and the California Department of Justice.
“We want them to release independent reviews and statements,” he said.
Both Hew and Pinon were honored for their service last year. Hew received the department’s 2016 City Employee of the Year award, while Pinon was named the 2016 Officer of the Year.
Local law enforcement supporters are holding a fundraising motorcycle ride event Aug. 19 starting at the Los Banos Police Department headquarters, 945 Fifth St., with proceeds going to Hew’s and Pinon’s families.
“The Hew and Pinon families want to thank everyone for their continued prayers and well wishes as they continue to recover," Chief Gary Brizzee said. "The police department asks that you continue to respect the privacy of both officers and their families.”
Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562
The “Back the BLUE Motorcycle Ride,” which includes a tri-tip dinner, is being organized by the Iron Breed Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club, and sponsored by American Armory in Hollister.
Those wanting more information or interested in participating are encouraged to call 209-587-0573.
Anyone interested in donating is being asked by the police department to contact Los Banos Police Officer’s Association Vice-President Christopher Borchardt at 209-827-7070, ext. 289.