Hesperia suspect linked to shootings in Rialto, Highland, source says

HESPERIA (KABC) -- The man arrested for allegedly shooting a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy in Hesperia also may be linked to two shootings on the 210 Freeway in Rialto Tuesday night and a fatal shooting in Highland Wednesday, a law enforcement source told Eyewitness News.

The Hesperia suspect, Kenneth Scott Welch, 37, of Redlands,was arrested hours after the shooting of the deputy at a gas station early Thursday.

That incident began when a clerk at the Chevron station on Ranchero Road had reported that a man had taken some food items from the station's convenience store and assaulted the clerk.

When a sheriff's deputy arrived to take a report, he found the man in a black sedan outside the gas station. He attempted to question the suspect, demanding he show his hands and exit the car, but the man refused and a confrontation ensued, with the deputy pepper-spraying the man, officials said.

The suspect then opened fire on the deputy and hit him once in the chest, officials said. The deputy, whose life was saved by a bulletproof vest, returned fire and then chased after the man in his vehicle, but had to stop for medical attention.

Investigators were later able to identify the suspect as Welch and a SWAT team found him near his last known address on Colton Avenue in Redlands, arresting him without incident.

The deputy who was shot by the suspect was identified as three-year veteran Deputy Patrick Higgins, 25, assigned to the Victor Valley station. Although the vest stopped the bullet, he suffered significant trauma to his chest area and was treated at a local hospital, officials said.

A law enforcement source told Eyewitness News the same suspect has been linked to two shootings on the 210 Freeway in Rialto on Tuesday. Two people in vehicles traveling in opposite directions were hit by gunfire and treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

He has also been linked to the fatal shooting of a man found lying in the street in Highland early Wednesday.

The Highland victim, identified as Mario Figueroa, 48, of Redlands, was found suffering from a gunshot wound in the street at 6th Street and Central Avenue around 9:37 a.m. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
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