HESPERIA (CBSLA.com) — A man arrested on suspicion of trying to kill a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy in Hesperia may be linked to two other shootings and a murder in Redlands.

Kenneth Welch, 37, is accused of shooting Deputy Patrick Higgins, 25, at a Chevron gas station on Ranchero Road early Thursday morning.

On Wednesday at 11:16 p.m., Deputy Higgins, responded to a report of an armed robbery at the gas station, where the gunman stole several items and assaulted a clerk at the gas station before getting away in a dark-colored Chrysler, according to a press release from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

After talking to the employee, Higgins left and returned at 12:38 a.m. That was when he noticed a car that matched the suspect’s vehicle description.

Higgins asked the driver to exit the car. When he refused, the deputy deployed pepper spray. That was when the gunman shot the deputy in the chest, investigators said.

“The deputy approached the vehicle to make contact with the driver. They exchanged a few words, and the supsect then fired off several rounds at the deputy. He struck the deputy one time in the chest. Thankfully, the deputy was wearing his body armor,” said Cindy Bachman, spokewoman for the sheriff’s department.

Higgins immediately retreated to his cruiser and fired back at the suspect, who took off. The deputy chased after the supsect but later lost him.

Higgins then stopped and called a dispatcher to send him medical aid: “I’m hit in my vest, I’m not sure of my damage. I took one round to the vest, and if you could have medical aid unit 87 at Escondido and Muscatel.”

That was where paramedics picked up Higgins and took him to a hospital, where he was treated and released Thursday afternoon.

Welch was arrested later without incident near his house on Colton Avenue in Redlands.

Now, Welch may be linked to the murder of Mario Figueroa, 48, Wednesday morning in Highland, his family confirmed.

A source told CBS2’s Crystal Cruz that Welch may also be connected to two more shootings on the 210 Freeway in Rialto on Monday.

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