Sheriff Stanley Sniff
Hemet Station
Press Release
Date/Time Written: May 08, 2008 / 7:30 AM
Type of Incident: Officer Involved Shooting
Date/Time of Incident: May 08, 2008 / 12:15 AM
Location of Incident: Soboba Rd. and Castile Canyon Rd., Hemet
Reporting Officer: Investigator Jerry Franchville, Media Information Officer
File Number: D08129001

Details: On Thursday, May 08, 2008, about 12:15 AM, deputies from the Hemet Station were working patrol in the area of the Soboba
Indian Reservation. Deputies heard gunshots in the area of Soboba Rd. and Castile Canyon Rd., unincorporated area of Hemet.

Deputies went to investigate and requested backup. The deputies quickly realized the suspects were shooting at them. The deputies
took cover and requested emergency backup. As back up from multiple agencies began responding, three men confronted the deputies
and at least two of the men were armed with assault rifles.

An officer involved shooting occurred and one of the men was shot and later pronounced deceased. An assault rifle was recovered
from the deceased suspect. The other two men left the area. None of the deputies were injured.

As responding police units arrived, a perimeter was established and a search for the other two men was initiated. One of the suspects
is described as an adult male in his twenties and armed with an assault rifle.

At the time of this press release, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department is continuing the investigation and search with the
assistance from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department Special Enforcement Bureau, helicopter, and bloodhounds. The identity of
the deceased male is being withheld until proper notifications are made.

Anyone who may have additional information or may know the whereabouts of suspect(s) is encouraged to call the Riverside County
Sheriff's dispatch center at (951) 776-1099. All media inquiries can call PIO Jerry Franchville at (951) 222-7536.

Story below from the Press-Enterprise
The Press-Enterprise

SOBOBA INDIAN RESERVATION - An early-morning gun battle with sheriff's deputies left a member of a prominent Soboba tribal family dead Thursday, prompting authorities to seal off the rustic reservation all day and frustrating the tribal chairman.

Riverside County sheriff's deputies were patrolling the reservation when someone began shooting at them with assault rifles just after midnight, said Investigator Jerry Franchville.

A shootout ensued, leaving Soboba tribal member Eli Morillo dead and sparking a massive air and ground search for two people on the reservation near San Jacinto, authorities said. 

Paul Alvarez/The Press-Enterprise

A Riverside County Sheriff’sDepartment SWAT team member wears a “ghillie” suit to blend in with the terrain on the Soboba Indian Reservation, where two people were being sought Thursday.
It was the third time in six  months that there was gunfire involving officers on the reservation, although this was the first time that someone had been hit. Morillo, 26, was the second member of his family to die in a gunfight with deputies. His brother, Peter Morillo, 27, died in October 2002 at a Valle Vista house after barricading himself inside. Their mother, Rosemary Morillo, has served as a Tribal Council member and was chairwoman until earlier this year.

Rosemary Morillo did not return messages left on her cell phone Thursday.

Chairman Frustrated

Soboba Chairman Robert Salgado, speaking by telephone from his home on the reservation, said he had few details about the shooting and search. The longtime tribal leader said he was frustrated by authorities' refusal to share information with him and by their lockdown of the reservation. Tribal security vehicles and sheriff's patrol cars blocked off access to and from the reservation. Residents were told they could not leave the reservation or return if they had left prior to the shooting.

He said the Soboba Casino remained open Thursday.

Salgado said authorities need to tell tribal leaders what's happening on their reservation so the two parties can work together.

"We're not a big reservation. We know who's who," he said. "We're not here to overpower the Sheriff's Department. We're here to work with them."

Salgado said he spoke with the Bureau of Indian Affairs on Thursday and plans to call for a meeting with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to get better coordination in the future.

"I think we're here to protect the health, safety and welfare of everyone here," Salgado said. "I don't think the council would be one to protect somebody who is wanted."

Paul Alvarez / The Press-Enterprise

A Riverside County Sheriff’s Department armored truck arrives at the Soboba Indian Reservation hours after a man was killed during shootout with deputies. A search for two people continued.
Sheriff Stanley Sniff defended the actions of his investigators, saying they did the best job they could with a dangerous and changing situation. The top priority, he said, is making sure that the safety of deputies is maintained, and sometimes that means the dissemination of information is limited.

He said tribal officials were given two briefings during the day, although he conceded that those might not have come as soon as they may have wanted.

"We try and be as reasonable as we can," Sniff said. "It is not perfect."

Sniff said he would welcome a meeting like that Salgado described.

The deputies involved in the shooting were placed on paid administrative leave in accordance with department policy. Deputy Herlinda Valenzuela, a department spokeswoman, said Thursday night that she did not have the number of deputies affected.

Nighttime Firefight

Around 12:15 a.m. Thursday, deputies patrolling along Soboba Road near Castile Canyon Road heard shots fired and went to investigate, Franchville said.

As the deputies approached the intersection of Soboba and Castile Canyon roads, they heard more shots, he said, and believing they were targets, they called for backup.

The area has been the site of several recent incidents involving gunfire between individuals and deputies. The reservation is in a rugged area at the foot of the San Jacinto Mountains.

At one point, an "11-99" -- the radio code meaning an officer was under fire and needed help -- was broadcast, prompting a massive response from various police agencies in the region.

"Shortly after they took cover and hunkered down, they realized they were taking fire from a different angle," Franchville said. "We think either the person or group that was shooting actually moved so the deputies would have a difficult time getting a bead on them or even flank them, re-engage and start shooting some more."

Franchville said two people eventually approached deputies with assault rifles and opened fire. A third person was also seen, but it was unknown whether he was also armed.

"There was a barrage of fire exchanged, and one suspect was killed," he said. The other two people fled.

A gun recovered from the scene appears to be an AR-15 assault rifle, Franchville said.

Sheriff's officials set up a command post in motor homes in a vacant corner of the parking lot at Soboba Casino. Uniformed and plainclothes deputies milled about throughout the day as a sheriff's helicopter circled low above the intersection of Soboba and Castile Canyon roads about a mile away.

Franchville said at any given time, about 40 department members were involved in the investigation, securing the area and searching for the two people being sought.

Franchville said investigators are looking into whether the deputies were deliberately lured into a shootout or ambush.

Salgado said he had just started to go to sleep shortly after midnight when deputies swarmed the reservation. He said deputies even pulled guns on him when he and his sister, Rose Salgado, went out to talk to authorities.

Salgado said he spent much of the night and day fielding phone calls from confused tribal members and trying to figure out what to do about children left unsupervised because their parents were detained and about school buses that were scheduled to enter and leave the reservation.

Eli Morillo


 ELI MORILLO Age 26, of the Soboba Indian Reservation, died 05/08/2008 on the reservaton.

Eli is survived by his daughter, Se'ish Morillo; son, Poowish Morillo; mother, Rosemary Morillo; sisters, Diane, Lynn, Michelle, Angela, Celena, Amy, Anita Morillo; 21 nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his father, Peter D. Morillo, Jr. and his brother, Peter D. Morillo III.

Visitation 05/16/08, 5-7pm with Wake Services at 7pm at Soboba Tribal Hall. Graveside Service 05/17/08, 10am at Soboba Cemetery.

The Press-Enterprise

Representatives from the Soboba tribe and Riverside County Sheriff's Department met Thursday for the second time in what participants called a working session as the two sides attempt to ease tensions following the shooting deaths of three people on the reservation.

Meanwhile, the 14 deputies who fired their weapons during the two incidents have returned to duty, said department spokesman Sgt. Dennis Gutierrez. He emphasized that the two parallel investigations into the fatal shootings -- a criminal review by the district attorney's office and a separate internal probe to determine whether department policy was followed -- have not been completed.

Under department policy, deputies involved in such incidents are automatically placed on administrative leave and must see a counselor before they are allowed to return to duty, Gutierrez said.

Thursday's meeting took place at the Soboba Springs Country Club, the same location where tribal officials met last week with high-ranking Sheriff's Department administrators. The latest closed-door meeting involved Tribal Chairman Robert "Bobby" Salgado and his sister, Rose, a member of the Tribal Council, and sheriff's Lt. Patricia Knudson and Sgt. Bill Roach, both assigned to the nearby Valle Vista station.

A Bureau of Indian Affairs official and a U.S. Department of Justice mediator also attended Thursday's meeting, as they did the one last week.

Before the session, Knudson said they planned to discuss issues that arose during the meeting last week and to set the groundwork for a future meeting between the two sides. After the three-hour-plus meeting, she said all parties agreed not to comment on what was discussed, but she indicated that both sides plan to meet again.

Relations between the 900- member Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians and Sheriff's Department have been strained since two fatal shooting incidents involving tribal members.

On May 12, deputies killed Joseph Arres, 36, and Tamara Angela Hurtado, 29, in a gunbattle in a remote part of the reservation. They were shot multiple times by SWAT officers, who said they were fired upon by one of the two tribal members. Nine deputies fired their weapons in that incident, authorities said.

Four days earlier, deputies shot and killed Eli Morillo, 26, as they investigated gunfire on a remote part of the reservation and found themselves under attack, authorities said. Five deputies fired in that shooting.

Sgt. Dean Spivacke said Thursday that investigators found a handgun in the Honda Accord that Arres and Hurtado were in before the May 12 fatal confrontation. He could not say whether it had been fired.

He said autopsies on the three tribal members have been completed and the results will be released after a coroner's review is finished.

Reach Jose Arballo Jr. at 951-368-9280 or jarballo@PE.com

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