HESPERIA (CBSLA.com) — A man accused of wounding a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy is also suspected of killing a man he followed off a freeway and shooting at two other motorists.
Kenneth Scott Welch, 37, targeted the victims at random, according to Sheriff John McMahon.
Authorities believed Welch followed Mario Figueroa on Interstate 210 and shot him in the head when the 48-year-old victim parked his car on 6th Street in Highland on Wednesday.
A few hours later early Thursday morning, Welch shot Deputy Patrick Higgins after robbing a Chevron gas station in Hesperia and beating a clerk, according to investigators. Higgins’ bulletproof vest saved his life.
“He was struck in a position on his body that would have been fatal had he not been wearing his protective equipment,” McMahon said. “But what’s important to know is that he stayed in the fight even though he was struck with a bullet in the left side of his chest.”
Deputies said they confiscated two guns from Welch.
“There is no doubt in our mind that Kenneth Welch is responsible for not only for our deputy sheriff but murdering Mr. Figueroa,” Sgt. Jason Radeleff said. “He didn’t owe people money. He wasn’t an enemy to anyone. He was simply helping out a family member.”
Welch’s mom told CBS2’s Crystal Cruz that she is sorry about everyone involved.
Figueroa’s family said he was killed after taking a cousin to to work. “My uncle Mario Figueroa was an innocent man,” Figueroa’s niece, Julie Miranda, choked up as she spoke at a news conference. “He only wanted to do more with his life for his loved ones and himself. He was a happy man and always willing to lend a helping hand.”
Welch is also suspected of shooting two other drivers also on the 210 Freeway in Rialto Tuesday night. They suffered minor injuries.
Deputies said the suspect could be linked to a car shooting in Colton as well.