Vigil held for California sheriff’s deputy killed during gunman’s crime rampage

A Stanislaus County sheriff’s deputy who was slain by a gunman Sunday had always wanted to work in law enforcement and loved his community, family members recalled during a vigil hours after the lawman’s death.

“We’re both sons of a law enforcement officer and that’s all we ever wanted to do as kids,” said Dave Wallace, whose brother, Dennis Wallace, was shot twice in the head Sunday morning, according to KXTV.

“We truly loved each other, and I can tell you that Dennis truly loved this community,” Wallace said.

The Stanislaus County sheriff’s deputy was shot and killed in “an execution” carried out by a wanted man who was caught hours after he carjacked one motorist, robbed a liquor store and tried to snatch a purse from a woman in Tulare County, authorities said.

Deputy Wallace, a 20-year department veteran, was shot twice in the head shortly after coming across a stolen van in Fox Grove Park, just outside the city of Hughson, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson told reporters at a news conference.

“We know for a fact that the gun used in this crime was in direct contact with his head when the trigger was pulled — twice,” Christianson said in a video posted by news station KCR3. “This was an execution.”

The suspect, identified as David Machado Jr., 36, fled before carjacking a 2009 white Kia Rio in the nearby community of Keyes, Christianson said. The van was abandoned nearby.

While on the run, Machado traveled at least 150 miles before committing an armed robbery at a convenience store in Lindsay, about 15 miles east of the city of Tulare in the Central Valley, Christianson said during another news conference announcing the suspect’s arrest. Then, shortly after noon, Machado tried to steal a purse from a woman, who fought back and called police, he said.

Police officers who responded to her report chased Machado on foot and took him into custody, the sheriff said.

“He surrendered to those peace officers who were chasing him,” Christianson said.

He said Machado was identified through his tattoos and a photograph that had been released to other law enforcement agencies.

Authorities have recovered a van Machado used to flee from Fox Grove Park as well as the Kia Rio he carjacked later, according to Christianson.

“There’s still much work to be done,” Christianson said. “We will be bringing Mr. Machado back here to Stanislaus County to stand trial and we will seek justice, and justice will be done in this case.”

Christianson said the events that led to the shooting began about 8:24 a.m. Sunday, when Wallace called in and was told by dispatch that a car he saw at the Fox Grove Fishing Access was stolen. Wallace asked for another unit but never responded to additional messages from dispatchers, Christianson said.

A second deputy discovered Wallace when he arrived. The gunman had fled, Christianson said. The carjacking in Keyes occurred about 8:40 a.m., the sheriff said.

Machado, he said, had an outstanding warrant in connection with another felony, but the sheriff did not elaborate.

“He is a known criminal,” Christianson said.

Wallace, he said, was well-known for working on anti-drug and early intervention programs. He was married with a family, the sheriff said.

“Right now it’s kind of in a fog,” Wallace’s brother said at Sunday’s vigil. “But the fog will clear, the sun will shine and we cannot and will not let evil win.”

Some who mourned the deputy showed their support for the department by delivering flowers. Law enforcement agencies throughout the state also sent their condolences through social media.

“The killing of Deputy Dennis Wallace has had a tremendous negative effect on all of the organization,” Christianson said. “We’ve lost someone who is special to us.”

The killing was the second in four years for the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department. In 2012, Deputy Robert Paris, a 16-year department veteran, was killed along with a civilian when a gunman opened fire as authorities tried to serve an eviction notice at an apartment complex in Modesto.

Last month, four law enforcement officers were slain in California in a two-week period.

On Oct. 6, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Owen was shot as he responded to a burglary report in Lancaster. Authorities said Trenton Trevon Lovell, 27, shot Owen and then stood over the wounded lawman and pumped an additional four rounds into his body. Lovell, 27, has been charged with murdering Owen, attempted murder of a second sheriff’s deputy and other charges. He was scheduled to be arraigned Monday.

Days after Owen’s death, Palm Springs Police Officers Lesley Zerebny, 27, and Jose “Gil” Vega, 63, were shot and killed in what officials said was a planned attack. The Riverside County district attorney said John Hernandez Felix, 26, set a trap for officers and ambushed them as they stood outside his door. Authorities also said Felix used an assault rifle with an extended magazine and wore body armor during the shooting. As a convicted felon, Felix was prohibited from owning or possessing firearms.

On Oct. 19, Modoc County Sheriff’s Deputy Jack Hopkins was gunned down while responding to a disturbance call. Modoc officials said Hopkins was killed as he entered a property about eight miles south of Alturas when he was confronted and shot by Jack Lee Breiner. The deputy was killed instantly.

As he fled, Breiner, 47, engaged another deputy in a gunbattle and was shot and wounded, authorities said. He has been charged with murder and other crimes in connection with the killing.

On Sunday, Christianson lamented having to face reporters again to announce the slaying of one of his deputies and called for a show of unity for law enforcement nationwide.

“Unfortunately, we do this far too often here in California and nationwide,” he said. “You have to ask yourself the question: Where does it stop? Where does it end?”

ruben.vives@latimes.com

Staff writer Joseph Serna contributed to this report.

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