Suspect ID’d in officer-involved shooting

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Suspect ID’d in officer-involved shootingFollowing a recent officer-involved shooting incident that left one dead, officers of the Ridgecrest and Taft police departments are awaiting the results of an investigation by the Kern County District Attorney’s Office to see if the use of force was justified.

“I can’t speak for the D.A.’s office, but it does not appear to me that any of the officers performed inappropriately,” said Ridgecrest Police Chief Ron Strand. “I can say that all of our officers involved are all back at work.”

Last Thursday, 9-1-1 dispatchers received a call originating from the 500 block of South Sunset Street that a suspect, later identified as 45-year-old Los Angeles resident Oscar Junior, was brandishing a weapon.

According to police reports, Junior had approached a woman with whom he had a former romantic relationship. Witness accounts indicate that Junior had an argument with the woman, then pointed a gun at her head and pulled the trigger twice — although the gun was not loaded.

Shortly thereafter, a team of law enforcement agents arrived on the scene, and Junior reportedly fled on foot.

Capt. Jed McLaughlin of RPD said that when the call came in, the department was involved in an exercise that allows other county law-enforcement agencies to collaborate on parole and probation sweeps — which meant that dozens of officials were out in the field at the time.

“It was just a coincidence that we had so many officers in the area when this happened,” said McLaughlin. Six officers of RPD, and one of Taft PD, reportedly pursued Junior after he fled.

Junior reportedly climbed onto a roof as officers closed in on his location.

“Officers gave several commands for the suspect to drop his firearm,” states an RPD report. “The suspect refused to comply with the orders and allegedly pointed his firearm at the officers.”

The responding officers subsequently fired upon Junior. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

“There were no bullets in the gun, but there was no way for us to know that,” said McLaughlin. “I don’t know why he provoked the officers. Only he knows.”

As soon as reports began to circulate on social media, Junior’s actions were the source of broad speculation.

“I read all these comments and it’s heartbreaking how much judgment is passed,” wrote one family member who identified Junior as her uncle. “He was suffering.”

Junior has no documented criminal history in Kern County, although he was on active parole with the California State Department of Corrections. Records from his home county had not been released by press time, although RPD reports that he has numerous felony convictions relating to firearm violations.

McLaughlin thanked the community for their support and understanding during the incident.

“I think the response we saw from our citizens is a reflection of how great the people are who live and work here,” he said. “Their support shows the officers they care, but it also shows they understand it’s a difficult time not just for our officers, but for Mr. Junior’s family. This is not an easy situation for anyone.”

Strand said that the D.A.’s findings are not expected to be available for another 6-8 weeks. Developments will be reported as they become available.

Story First Published: 2017-06-16