Former Security Guard in Shootout with Deputies Was ‘Paranoid’

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Fresno, CA—A private security guard with an extensive collection of weapons killed a Fresno County deputy sheriff and wounded two other men before taking his own life.

Authorities began investigating Rick “Ricky” Ray Liles, 51, after receiving reports that shots had been fired in the small village of Minkler, CA. On Friday, three law enforcement officers approached Liles’s mobile home to serve a search warrant related to the shots and to a string of arsons, but instead became embroiled in a gunfight. According to some reports, the authorities used a loudspeaker to ask the trailer’s occupants to surrender, then kicked in the door.

Ricky Liles had a number of handguns, rifles, a scope, radar detectors and police scanners, in addition to an AR-15 rifle, which police say he used in the firestorm. Over 400 rounds were fired, by over 25 deputies, in the encounter.

Joel Wahlenmaier, 49 and a 12-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, died in the gunbattle. Police Officer Javier Bejar was critically wounded, and is not expected to survive. A third man, Deputy Mark Harris, was wounded but is recovering at home.

Liles apparently shot himself in the head after telling his wife that he loved her, and apologizing for “getting you into this.” Diane Liles lay on the floor of the trailer while the shots were fired, and survived the incident. Police say she will not be charged in the case.

Records from the California Department of Consumer Affairs show that Liles was a licensed security guard in good standing with the state, having received his license in 2002. A permit for firearms which he had held since 2003, however, had expired several months ago. Described by some as “paranoid,” he was taking medication for depression and had expressed the opinion that he would rather die than go to prison.

It is unclear why the officers who went to serve Liles with the search warrant presented themselves at the door, and then entered the mobile home, rather than waiting outside for Liles to emerge. All of the law enforcement officers had good tactical experience and were wearing protective clothing like bulletproof vests. Yet they were unaware that Liles had the assault rifle, and did not suspect that he would fire through the door of the single-wide trailer.

When Liles’s body was recovered, investigators found him lying next to six 30-round magazines for the rifle, three of them empty.

 

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