Victorville homicide suspect arrested after shooting, robbery at Placer County church

Local News

GOLD RUN, Calif. (KTXL) — The Placer County Sheriff’s Office arrested a man in connection to a shooting and robbery in Gold Run on Saturday. 

The sheriff’s office said they responded to the Pioneer Union Church around 2 p.m. for an interrupted burglary that escalated into a robbery.

A man identified as 25-year-old John Waninger of Hesperia was caught on surveillance camera attempting to steal sound equipment and tools, the sheriff’s office said. 

A church member, who friends only identified as “Alan,” was doing yard work next door and confronted Waninger. 

Alan used his cellphone to take a picture of the suspect before Waninger threatened him and demanded his phone.  

The sheriff’s office said Waninger shot Alan with a pistol. 

“In his face and the gun went off because he got part of his hat,” recalled Warren Vergara, a fellow church member who was doing yard work with Alan just before the encounter. 

Waninger then hit Alan on the head with the weapon and knocked him to the ground. 

Even though he was assaulted, Vergara says Alan still tried to help Waninger. 

“Asked me if I had any cash to give to this guy so that he can help us rake and clean the area,” Vergara said. 

But Vergara says Alan resisted being taken to an ATM despite being threatened. 

“Telling that guy that, ‘I’m not going to drive you to the ATM so that you can get some money, not with a gun in your hand. If you’re going to shoot me, you can shoot me right here,’” Vegara recalled. 

Waninger demanded the victim drive him to an ATM to get cash but he refused, investigators said.

On video provided by the sheriff’s office, Waninger can be heard demanding the man give him whatever money he has. 

Waninger eventually let the two men go after being convinced they wouldn’t go to the police. 

A witness called 911 after Waninger left the area on a push scooter toward Interstate 80, according to the sheriff’s office. 

Around 6:40 p.m., a citizen reported a suspicious man walking on Interstate 80 near the Dutch Flat exit.  

Deputies said Waninger was found a few hundred yards from the church at the Mountain Springs Hitch N Post bar. 

He was leaning up against this retaining wall when a patrol unit arrived. When officers got closer, he fled into the woods behind the bar. 

When he was found, Waninger was taken into custody by the sheriff’s office Special Enforcement Team. 

He had a 9 mm bullet and a spent 9 mm shell casing from the crime scene, the sheriff’s office said. 

Waninger was charged for attempted murder, robbery and burglary. 

He was also wanted on a $1 million warrant for homicide out of San Bernardino County. 

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said Waninger is the suspect in a homicide investigation involving a man who was found dead on June 21. 

Just before 1 p.m. last Monday, Victorville police officers said they went to Stoddard Wells Road where they found 34-year-old Travis Payment dead in front of his trailer. 

An arrest warrant was obtained after investigators learned Payment had been seen earlier in the day with a man known as “Smokey,” who was later identified as Waninger.  

Waninger will eventually be extradited to San Bernardino County. 

As for Alan, a friend who wished to stay anonymous says he’s still recovering. 

“He’s doing well, he has a fractured jaw, and he can’t speak right now, but he was incredibly lucky,” the friend said. 

Deputies warn residents to not put themselves in danger if faced with a similar situation. 

“Everybody needs to make the call for themselves,” said Lt. Nelson Resendes of the Placer County Sheriff’s Office. “Don’t do anything that’s going to place yourself in harm.” 

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