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CERES – A U.S. Marine shot and killed one police officer and injured another before being shot to death by hours later.

Sergeant Howard Stevenson died from the multiple gun shots he suffered Sunday evening, becoming the first member of the Modesto Police Department to die in the line of duty. Officer Sam Ryno was in critical condition in a hospital after also being shot several times.

Police are trying to determine if the shooter, 19-year-old Andres Raya of Modesto, wanted to die in what authorities call "suicide by cop." Raya's family told police that he was afraid he would be sent back to Iraq for a third stint of duty, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

"We're still in the very early stages of investigating this," said Deputy Jason Woodman of the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department. "We still have a long way to go."

Raya was supposed to have reported for duty to Camp Pendleton on Sunday after taking holiday leave but instead left the San Diego area Saturday night to return home.

The incident began when someone at a liquor store reported to police that a man had come into the store with a shotgun and left on foot.

Ryno, 50, arrived on scene and was fired upon by Raya and hit, police said. Stevenson, 39, then showed up and was shot twice in the head, according to police, before Raya fled.

Raya was tracked down by other officers who converged to the area. Police say he initiated a second gunfight, during which he was shot and killed.

Woodman said the rifle Raya used was illegal and had not been issued to him by the military.

Several houses in the neighborhood, north of Ceres High School, were evacuated, and the area was kept locked down for about two-and-a-half hours, officers said. Officers went door to door, asking residents to lock their doors and turn off their lights, said Vito Fontana, 63, a local resident who watched the police in action.

Stevenson had been a member of the Ceres police force for 20 years and is survived by his wife and three children.

MassCops Founder
6,403 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Re: Ceres officer dies, another injured in gunfight with Mar

No clear motive in Marine's killing of police officer
Shooter's friends believe he suffered from combat stress

Marine Lance Cpl. Andres Raya told his mother that he wanted just one thing for Christmas, relatives say -- to stay in Ceres instead of returning to military duty in Iraq.

The 19-year-old Marine's holiday wish now haunts his family and friends, who believe his reaction to the war may have played a role in his shooting Sunday night of two Ceres police officers, one of whom died. It also alarms military mental health experts, who say Raya may have been suffering from post-traumatic stress in the days before the incident, which ended when police shot him to death.

But more questions than answers remain for the Marine investigators working with police on the case, as well as those who served with Raya -- including one Marine who said that despite the stories of house-to-house combat Raya told his family, he had seen little or no fighting during his time in Iraq last year.

Homicide investigators said Raya apparently had been intent on dying at the hands of police when he went to a liquor store armed with a semiautomatic rifle.

"By the statements the suspect made at the scene, it was clear he wanted to die and take as many cops down as he could in the process," said Lt. Bill Heyne, lead investigator for the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department. "This officer was executed."

He said that as Raya ran from police, he was telling residents, "Don't worry, you're a civilian. You won't get hurt."

Raya's relatives visited the Ceres police station Tuesday to pay their respects to Sgt. Howard "Howie" Stevenson, who lost his life when he responded to a 911 call from the liquor store.

Raya wounded Officer Sam Ryno and shot Stevenson twice in the head, killing him. Stevenson, 39, the first officer killed in the line of duty in Ceres, leaves behind a wife and two daughters, ages 19 and 13, and an 18-year-old son.

For Raya's friends and relatives left behind, it's hard to fathom why a teenager they said had never been in trouble with the law could turn so violent.

"It's awful what happened, and we don't want to make excuses because it's a double tragedy," said cousin Araceli Valdez, 23. "But we do know one thing. That man on the liquor store surveillance cameras wasn't our cousin. He wasn't Andy anymore."

Raya's lifelong friend Lalo Madrigal said Raya "just wasn't the same after the war -- he couldn't hold a conversation anymore."

Raya was eager to graduate from Ceres High School in 2003 so he could join the Marines, said his recruiter, Staff Sgt. Robert Tellez. He pegged Raya as a possible career Marine, based on his family support and his participation in Marine activities before he left for boot camp.

But when Raya returned to his family last fall, he was questioning the purpose of the war and encouraging his relatives to see Michael Moore's anti-war movie, "Fahrenheit 9/11," said his 24-year-old cousin, Alex Raya.

"He showed us pictures of this guy's hand hanging off," he said. "He told us about going into homes and shooting them up, and he said he wouldn't pull the trigger a lot because he didn't want to kill anyone."

At Thanksgiving, he told his family he had seen Marines commit suicide rather than continue fighting in Iraq.

"He kept saying it was a war that had no point, that it was all for oil, and it made no sense that we were after (Osama) bin Laden but went after Saddam Hussein instead," Alex Raya said.

Friends said Raya would stare into space during conversations or lock himself in his room and listen to CDs for hours. Once, they said, he fell asleep at a party, and when his friends shook him awake, he screamed at them and reached for a gun that wasn't there.

Relatives said Raya hadn't sought counseling. "We thought it was normal," said another cousin, Marisa Raya, 27. "I mean, how can you not see the things he saw and not be affected in your soul?"

Mental health experts said the behavior Raya's family described, including social withdrawal and nightmares, could have indicated that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress.

"He clearly needed to be assessed so it could be determined if he was in harm's way," said Fred Gusman, director of the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Menlo Park, part of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Studies have suggested at least 17 percent of returning Iraq war veterans experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress, Gusman said. He suggested the military and VA should do more to educate family members about the signs of combat stress, beginning long before the veteran returns home.

Another expert, Denver Mills, director of the Concord Vet Center, agreed that families should be educated. But he also said he was worried that the presumption of post-traumatic stress in Raya's case could lead to a presumption of violence and mental illness in all returning service members, as happened with his own generation returning from Vietnam.

"When people come back, they are going to have normal emotional reactions to doing what they did," Mills said. "That doesn't mean they're all going to have post-traumatic stress."

One of Raya's fellow Marines, speaking on condition that he not be named, also questioned whether Raya's actions were the result of combat stress.

While Raya recently transferred to the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, which experienced heavy casualties during the Fallujah offensive, he was in Iraq with a different unit and worked as a motor transportation officer, according to the Marines.

The Marine who served with Raya said that in that capacity, Raya had witnessed the occasional mortar round outside his base west of Ramadi but experienced little if any direct combat. The Marine said Raya lived in relative safety in an inner wall of a palace dubbed the "hole in the wall."

"Everybody, whenever you deploy, feels stress in different ways. For me to say he felt no stress would be ridiculous," the Marine said. But he noted that what Raya experienced did not compare to the intense house-to-house combat in Fallujah.

Raya returned to Camp Pendleton in San Diego County this month after telling family members he would be deployed back to Iraq in February. However, the Marines say his new unit is actually scheduled to go to Okinawa.
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