MODESTO — Family, friends and fellow officers of Newman Police Corporal Ronil Singh supported one another in the hallway outside of Department 8 of the Stanislaus County Superior Court in Modesto, as they prepared to face his suspected killer — Gustavo Arriaga.
Arriaga avoided eye contact and spoke up only to say his true name is Paulo Mendoza. He did not enter a plea.
A deputy district attorney told FOX40 that the court will likely refer to him as Mendoza.
Arriaga will be evaluated by a doctor after his attorney questioned his competence.
Investigators say Arriaga was pulled over in the early morning hours the day after Christmas on suspicion of driving under the influence before he fatally shot Singh.
Singh emigrated from his native Fiji to the United States to pursue his dream of becoming a police officer, according to loved ones. Investigators say Arriaga is living in the country illegally and is a member of the Surenos street gang.
FOX40 obtained federal documents that presented a timeline of what investigators say happened after the fatal shooting.
According to the documents, the accused cop killer’s girlfriend, Ana Cervantes, gave him new clothes before he escaped Stanislaus County.
Investigators say Arriaga’s truck, which was covered by a tarp when investigators towed it, had a bullet hole and that his co-worker, Erik Quiroz, helped him change out the license plate.
Quiroz is suspected of taking him to hide in a dairy farm in El Nido. A SWAT team would later search the area and come up empty.
Documents state Arriaga’s brother, Adrian Mendoza, drove him from the dairy farm to Kern County, where he paid a human trafficker $400 to hide him.
The four people suspected of helping Arriaga were also in court Wednesday.
Groups Speak Out Against SB 54
Outside the courthouse Wednesday, law enforcement families rallied in support of Singh’s family and against California’s so-called “sanctuary state” policy.
“We cannot allow for another officer’s life to be taken for simply protecting us,” demonstrator Kerrie Crain said.
California’s Senate Bill 54 restricts local law enforcement agencies from sharing information with federal immigration officials.
“Enough is enough. He should not have died,” demonstrator Sheila McKinsie said. “We need to end the sanctuary and protect our own.”
Immigration attorney Maegen Fulenchek says the law, passed in 2017, is intended to encourage people living in the country illegally to report crimes to law enforcement without fear of deportation.
“It’s so that they feel comfortable coming forward and reporting crimes and reporting things that happen and they don’t fear deportation for minor crimes,” she said.
Meanwhile, Arriaga is expected to be back in court in five weeks.