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Calif. deputy shot, gunman found dead of self-inflicted wound

3-22-2007 California:
ESCALON, Calif. — One man was dead nearby, a sheriff's deputy wounded and a methamphetamine lab discovered in a house southeast of Escalon on Tuesday.

A San Joaquin County sheriff's deputy, called to the house Tuesday morning on a domestic disturbance, was shot in the leg upon arrival.

A man whose name officials didn't release but whom they suspect of shooting at the deputy was found dead in an adjacent almond orchard from what the Sheriff's Office said was an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The house where the lab was found was on the west side of the 19000 block Santa Fe Road, sheriff's officials said. Neighbors said there was only one home in the area, a distance off the main road and shrouded by trees.

"You've kind of got to be really looking (to find it)," said June Madrid, 34, who lives nearby on Reile Street.

The dead man's connection to the methamphetamine lab was unknown Tuesday afternoon, said Deputy Les Garcia, a spokesman for the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office.

But he said it was common that methamphetamine labs are found in rural areas.

A multiagency force responded to the deputy's call for backup: two vans of San Joaquin County Special Weapons and Tactics team members, county explosive ordnance disposal and hostage negotiation teams, and officers from the Stockton Police, Escalon Police and Stanislaus County Sheriff's departments.

The Sheriff's Office received a report around 9 a.m. of a domestic disturbance at the home about two miles southeast of Escalon. A deputy drove to the home to investigate and was shot immediately upon arrival, Garcia said.

The deputy, a 16-year veteran, was shot once in the upper leg. He called for backup.

"When he was behind cover and things started to slow down a little bit, he realized he had been shot," Garcia said.

Then, Garcia said, the deputy heard a single gunshot and saw the suspect, who had fled into a nearby almond orchard, fall to the ground. He was dead when approached by law enforcement officers, Garcia said. The deputy, who was not immediately identified, was taken to a hospital, where he was treated and released.

Garcia said there might have been an exchange of fire between the deputy and the suspect, but that remained under investigation. Garcia also would not say what type of weapon was used in the shooting or whether the home was a known trouble spot, pending further investigation.

The Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department and the California Highway Patrol sent helicopters to the area after the deputy was shot.

SWAT officers arrived around noon and took up positions around the home in case there was anyone else inside or any booby traps. Explosive ordinance disposal and hostage negotiation teams arrived around 1 p.m.

Stockton police brought a robot designed for dealing with explosives and standoff situations shortly after.

The robot was sent into the house around 2 p.m. The Sheriff's Office announced the discovery of the methamphetamine lab around 3 p.m. The lab used red phosphorous, an ingredient in a very common and very dangerous process for synthesizing methamphetamine.

The woman who had made the initial report of domestic violence to police was still being interviewed Tuesday. Garcia would not identity the woman or describe the relationship between the woman and the dead man.

Neighbors said the man who rented the house was Dan Simas. The state's registry of sex offenders, accessible at , lists a Daniel Simas, 57, as living at 19911 S. Santa Fe Road in Escalon. The offense that required his registering as a sex offender is listed as "lewd or lascivious acts with a child 14 or 15 years old."

Carl Thom, who lives next to Simas, said he heard three or four gunshots in rapid succession, then as many as three more shots around 9 a.m. as he walked out to a barn on his 10.5-acre almond farm on Jones Avenue.

"It sounded kind of odd," said Thom, 57.

Simas rented a house on the property for about 10 years, was separated from his wife and had a couple of daughters, Thom said.

He kept a low profile, too, according to Thom.

Thom said he rarely encountered Simas; he last saw him about five years ago. He recalled Simas was in his 50s and at one point worked for a trucking company.

"He kept to himself pretty much," Thom said. "I never really knew what was going on over there."

Thom said he met Simas in the 1970s, when Simas' brother Gary rented a house next to his home on the same property. Gary Simas died in May.

Paul Adrian, listed in county records as the trustee of the 54-acre property where Daniel Simas lived, declined an interview when asked about Simas.

"I have nothing to say about it," Adrian said. ..more.. by Christian Burkin

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