Officials investigating after bounty hunters fatally shoot man along river-bottom

RIVERSIDE — Police are investigating the death of a man after he was shot in the head by bounty hunters early Sunday evening, Dec. 3. The deadly shooting happened during a violent confrontation between two bounty hunters and a man they had been searching for and conducting surveillance on in the Santa Ana River bottom, just east of Van Buren Boulevard, in Riverside.

A deputy provides CPR to a man who was fatally shot in the head by bounty hunters Sunday evening. Loudlabs News photo

A 911 call from the bounty hunters reporting the fatal shooting brought about two dozen Riverside County sheriff’s deputies and City of Riverside police officers flooding into the area at 5:09 p.m.

Riverside Fire personnel and American Medical Response medics were also dispatched to the scene of the deadly incident.

Within minutes of the dispatched call deputies and officers began converging on the area and were soon flooding into the river bottom, where the shooting victim’s body lay in the middle of the westbound side of a paved biking and walking path along the southern edge of the Santa Ana River.

The man, who was bleeding profusely from the head, was about fifty feet east of the Van Buren Boulevard over-pass. A small, dirt walkway led off the bike path towards a small encampment to the northeast of the bike path.

While Riverside PD’s helicopter crew in “Air-1” circled overhead a deputy, who was one of the very first officials to arrive at the scene of the deadly shooting, was observed providing CPR to the mortally wounded man. Another of the first arriving deputies was seen with a large, tactical medical kit, which he carried to the scene and pulled medical supplies from while providing first aid to the dying victim.

Paramedics and other emergency medical personnel soon arrived and took over life-saving efforts before AMR medics eventually transported the man to an area hospital with a gunshot wound to the head.

It was not immediately known if the victim sustained any other injuries.

The shooting victim was eventually transported to an area hospital with a gunshot wound to the head. He later died from his injuries. Loudlabs News photo

Two, armed men – who were wearing matching khaki pants and black jackets – could be seen watching life-saving efforts from nearby. The two were eventually separated and were later seen being interviewed by deputies and police officers investigating the circumstances that led to the lethal confrontation and shooting.

After officials at the scene determined the incident happened within the city limits, City of Riverside PD’s Robbery – Homicide Unit and Forensics Unit technicians responded and assumed the investigation.

They were assisted by the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office and Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner’s office.

During their investigation, officers and other officials were seen searching for evidence as well as documenting and photographing the bike path where the man’s body was found as well as the trail leading northwest of the path towards an encampment.

Based on their initial investigation, officers and detectives determined the two bounty hunters, who have not yet been publicly identified, had gone to the river-bottom to conduct surveillance on a man described by Riverside Police Officer Ryan Railsback as a “wanted male subject.”

At some point the bounty hunters “located and became involved in a physical altercation with the wanted subject when a shooting occurred,” Railsback explained. After the shooting, the bounty hunters called 911 and “requested law enforcement and medical assistance to respond.”

Officials discuss the fatal shooting. Loudlabs News photo

Officials did not specify why bounty hunters had been searching for the man or if he was wanted and being sought by law enforcement.

Officials have also not specified the exact circumstances that led to the bounty hunters using deadly force.

The two were released after they were questioned by authorities.

The shooting victim later succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead by hospital staff. Officials have not released the man’s name, pending further investigation and notification of his family.

Riverside PD’s investigation is active and ongoing.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation or who witnessed all or a portion of the shooting is encouraged to immediately contact Detective Karla Beler at (951) 353-7138 or by email, or Detective Adrian Tillett at (951) 353-7105 or by email. Those wishing to remain anonymous can email or can use Riverside PD’s new mobile app “Submit a Tip” feature while referencing incident number P17217676.

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Contact the writer:

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Trevor Montgomery, who recently moved from Riverside County to Shasta County, runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for Riverside County based newspapers Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident.

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 27 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 14 grandchildren.

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