California police fire at suspect, 'tragically' kill bystander instead

A California police officer who opened fire on a suspect with an outstanding warrant “tragically” struck and killed an innocent bystander instead, authorities said Sunday.

The shooting, which is being probed by state prosecutors because of recent law enforcement reforms, occurred Saturday night in Guadalupe, a small coastal city roughly three hours north of Los Angeles, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

Neither the suspect nor the officer, from the Guadalupe Police Department, was immediately identified.

The sheriff’s office said that Juan Luis Olvera-Preciado, 59, was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after 10 p.m. local time.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, which is assisting in the probe, did not immediately provide details about what prompted the shooting but said more information would be released pending an investigation.

The statement said that officers saw the suspect, who was wanted on a no-bail felony arrest warrant, a block east of Guadalupe’s main thoroughfare.

One of the officers fired at the suspect but struck Olvera-Preciado, who was sitting in his car nearby. The statement said he was "uninvolved" in the encounter and died "tragically."

The sheriff’s office did not say what charges the suspect is facing. The person surrendered at the scene and no one else was injured, the statement said.

The shooting was referred to the attorney general’s office under a new law that requires prosecutors to investigate deadly uses of force against unarmed civilians.

When Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the legislation last year, he described it as one of a series of new state laws aimed at reforming law enforcement practices that had been criticized by police accountability activists in the aftermath of George Floyd’s 2020 murder.