The suspect killed in a bizarre shooting rampage in Ridgecrest on Friday was having trouble at work and may have been taking drugs, law enforcement sources said.
Investigators worked Saturday to piece together why the suspect, Sergio Munoz, allegedly turned violent, eventually leading police on a 35-mile chase. During the chase Friday, authorities said, he tried to kill a pair of captives.
A woman killed at the start of the rampage has been identified as Brittany Matheny, according to a statement from the Kern County Sheriff’s Department. Matheny, age 22, was found dead by police responding to a shooting at a Ridgecrest home early Friday. Police believe Matheny was killed by 39-year-old Munoz, a felon with a lengthy rap sheet. A second person found at the house, identified as Thaddeus Meier, was shot several times but survived.
Sources close to the investigation but not authorized to discuss it said that Munoz had recently been using heroin and had run into trouble at a mineral company where he’d been employed. The sources also said Munoz was living with Meier in Ridgecrest and was friends with Matheny as well.
Munoz’s criminal history shows a record of serious trouble: He was a felon with a rap sheet dating to the 1990s, according to Kern County records.
Since 1999, Munoz had been charged 21 times and had served two years in prison for receiving stolen property. His crimes also included drug possession and child endangerment. In May, he was arrested on suspicion of being a felon in possession of ammunition. Prosecutors didn’t pursue charges and the case was dismissed. Munoz was also arrested this month on suspicion of possessing drug paraphernalia and ammunition.
Authorities said that after shooting Matheny and Meier, Munoz called Ridgecrest police and threatened to “wreak havoc” on the community. Munoz also said he wanted to “kill the officers, but they had too many guns,” according to Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood.
Shortly after that call, Munoz led police on a high-speed chase down U.S. Highway 395, shooting at police and passing cars, forcing some of them off the road, Youngblood said. At one point Munoz’s trunk popped open, revealing a trapped man and woman, who then appeared to pull the trunk lid closed. Authorities said that as he drove, Munoz began reaching back and shooting at the trunk through his sedan’s cabin.
According to Youngblood, Munoz kept firing as he stopped at a highway shoulder. Eventually the trunk opened again and the captives were able to get out, according to the sheriff’s statement. Munoz also trained his fire on police, who ended up shooting him several times and killing him.
The captives, whose names have not been released, suffered gunshot wounds during the rampage, but it was unclear when they were hit, according to Kern County sheriff’s spokesman Ray Pruitt. The pair were taken to Antelope Valley Hospital, where they were listed in critical condition but expected to survive.
Eight officers were involved in the shooting: three deputies from the Kern County, four officers from the Ridgecrest Police Department and an officer from the California Highway Patrol.