Paso Robles gunman dies in shootout with law enforcement

June 12, 2020

Photo by Richard Bastian


A suspect in a two day Paso Robles shooting spree that left one man dead and four law enforcement officers injured was shot and killed in a firefight Thursday afternoon.

Over the span of a day and a half, Mason James Lira, 26, shot a San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s deputy, an Arroyo Grande police officer, a California Highway Patrol officer and a Kings County sheriff’s deputy, each of whom are expected to recover. Lira was believed to have been schizophrenic and suffering from other mental conditions.

Shortly after 3 a.m. Wednesday, Mason James Lira, 26, began firing at officers at Paso Robles police station.

Deputy Nicholas Dreyfus, 28, and another deputy went to assist in the manhunt. While the two deputies searched the downtown area, the gunman shot Dreyfus in the face.

Dreyfus was then flown to a trauma center out of the area where he underwent surgery for his injuries. He is listed in guarded condition.

Later in the morning, Lira shot and killed a 59-year-old homeless man near the Paso Robles Amtrak station at 8th and Pine streets.

Photo by Richard Bastian

At about 10:20 p.m. on Wednesday, another confrontation occurred after a report of shots fired in the 200 block of Spring Street. Lira fled into an apartment complex.

Officers surrounded the apartment complex, but Lira escaped south through the Salinas riverbed.

At about 2 a.m. Thursday, Lira was spotted at a Paso Robles Chevron station in the 1800 block of Ramada Drive. He purchased an energy drink and food.

Officers responded, and a shootout ensued near Highway 46 and Ramada Drive. Lira escaped again, retreating into the riverbed.

Later Thursday morning, law enforcement launched a search of the riverbed starting at the Paso Robles fairgrounds.

Mason James Lira

After recognizing Lira as a homeless man who camped near the riverbed, bounty hunter Richard Dunbar informed law enforcement where they would likely find Lira. Law enforcement then focused their search on an area of the riverbed not far from Firestone Brewery.

At about 2 p.m., Lira shot Arroyo Grande Police Sergeant Michael Smiley in the calf near Ramada Drive and Volpi Ysabel Road in Paso Robles.

Lira retreated and later emerged from a nearby hideout in the riverbed. Lira crawled up an embankment and ran toward a vineyard.

A shootout ensued in which Lira shot a CHP officer in the bullet-proof vest. He then shot Kings County deputy Blake Bursiaga in the knee as the deputy was trying to rescue the injured CHP officer.

At about 4 p.m., Lira tried to flee the riverbed toward Highway 101 and was shot by officers. Responders pronounced Lira dead at the scene.

Officers found Lira in possession of two loaded handguns believed to have been stolen during a commercial burglary in the city of SLO earlier this week.

Lira’s father, Jose Lira, said in an interview with the Visalia Times Delta that his son had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, Asperger’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Jose Lira said his son would often think he was a special agent or a soldier and may have believed he was under attack or in a war zone.

“He lives in a fantasy world,” Jose Lira said. “He doesn’t have a beef with the police.”

Jose Lira also said his son’s ambush of the Paso Robles Police Department may have been a suicide attempt.

In videos he posted on his Facebook page, Lira talked about traveling into the future and the past, mind control and loving a daughter, even though he was unable to remember who the child’s mother was.

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One question. Where’s all the protesters yammering about police brutality? Hmm, just as I thought. All the nonsense of the past few weeks is just that! Ruining lives over plain nonsense and ignorance. God save our country.

Dang Cops… why’d they have to shoot him? All the misunderstood fella needed was a hug ; )

I personally cleaned up blood splatter at the Oaks Cardroom 28yrs ago after Lynwood “Snake” Drake came looking for revenge on coke dealer Paco who use to belittle Snake.

Social programs and committed mental healthcare professionals didn’t help or stop Lynwood Drake from his Nov 1992 shooting rampage. Either SLO County Mental Health failed Lynwood or he was not fixable, because the county had a huge multi-year mental health file on him. In either case, more funding to mental health would have NOT made any difference, IMO. Snake was a timebomb and it appears so was Mason Lira.

Hi Leroy,

On a few instances of Nov 7 in the past, I reflect on that night at The Oaks and Google the subject and stumbled on to this story and found this message board. I was one of the dozen+ people in that cardroom that night. I was seated in seat 2 when Dave got shot. Marie was dealing and Joe was in seat 5 or 6. Kris was behind me with Dave. I was 3rd to the door and I think his name was Kerry tried to open the door and thought it was locked and locked the door and realized he locked it and unlocked the door and we finally got the door opened. I felt a raining sensation at the door and later realized it was the glass from the door. It was a horrible scene.

Back in the day, when we had more adequate health care, most pointedly here, MENTAL health care, there was not only far less homelessness, there were far fewer incidences like that above. Now days, society has chosen to dump all the funding into LE and send cops after the homeless, the mentally ill, the domestic abuse incident, on and on. It is obvious from the story above that this is not working. LE should not be expected to respond to everything under the sun and apply lethal force as their main resort. They should not be so often put into the position where a situation has gone so far there is no other option. It is not fair to them and it is certainly not the best outcome for the recipient.

When people talk of “defunding the police”, they are simply suggesting that a portion of the money spent now on LE be reallocated to recreate the social services that once protected and served those in trouble before they required the attention of LE. Believe me, the LE would much prefer this as well. The outcomes would be better for everyone and LE could focus better on what they do best. They might even find time to recover some stolen property or be present in a way that brings them closer to their communities and prevents crime.

Having had LE in my immediate family, my heart goes out to the wounded officers and their families. I wish this situation could have been prevented.

Wow! I must certainly have a fan club! I make a statement about the situation which just about mirrors a previous one that got a whopping 19 thumbs up and I get 16 down! Hilarious. Do you guys just live to dis whatever I might post? Perhaps it was the details I provided? Don’t like those? Too much to think about? I would wager that none of those giving me a negative vote actually even talks to LE about any of these subjects. Guess what? They don’t like responding to mental health issues when they could be better addressed otherwise. And as for the one case mentioned above, how does that prove anything? And Flash from the Coliseum,, we were already defunding mental health by that time, in point of fact. Seriously, people. More thinking less reacting here. Social crisis do not get solved by people who live to “score” imaginary points in their heads. That in itself is a mental health issue.

Mason Lira given 8 citations over the last two years with zero fines in Visalia alone, plus notices to appear in Tulare county court, followed by 9 bench warrants totaling over $300k. The legal system gave him chances. It would be nice to see his mental health record, but that obviously has legal protection from being viewed.

I grew up with a guy that I played pee-wee baseball through high school baseball with, who had schizophrenia. After high school he got worse, but when he was on meds people would put a roof over his head. When he stopped his meds he was sleeping on bus benches and was a danger to himself and combative with others. Francesca what would have been the Mental Health professionals desired intervention on Mason? Lock him up and throw away the key or recurring surgically implanted medication?

Sadly, either of those last suggestions would have been preferable to what has occurred from lack of medical intervention. I realize that neither of those alternatives would be ideal, but it would have been lifesaving at least twice over and prevented the serious injuries to our LEO, who was doing his duty courageously.

Mental illness is heartbreaking for all concerned, families and others who love the victims are devastated and usually beyond their depth in areas of intervention or real help. We have, at this point, less than ideal treatments and protocols, but they are at least better than rampant delirious vagrancy that leads to violence. He had a record of violent behavior. Why was he not incarcerated in an appropriate mental facility? We put people in prison for selling pot. Why let a dangerous mental patient roam the streets becoming increasingly lethal to himself and anyone who crossed his path? Why continue to send LE after him when he had what started out as a medical problem?

What happened to our LEOs here was entirely preventable. I find it intensely hypocritical for people to insist they care and respect our officers so deeply and yet expect them to deal with things like this that have been let go to the point of life and death and then just commend their “heroism” and move on. They are not a disposal system for the people we refuse to deal with more responsibly and effectively.

Aye-carsmba. What are your specific recommendations for dealing with this?

Those champions of the homeless and their “rights” need to be aware that many are barely in possession of their wits and a high number are potentially VERY dangerous. They are not just harmless drunks who satisfy our need to feel like “good people” because we “care”. They must NOT be allowed to roam freely, defecate anywhere, stand on any street corner, accost anyone without consequence. This must be stopped. They are sick and need help. And this “tolerance” of homelessness must stop.

You can either Jail them or Treat them. Both take money. You can’t wish away homelessness or mental illness.

Are you suggesting we raise taxes to deal with it, or shift funds from police? You must be a radical leftie. No?

I don’t need panhandlers on the corner to feel good about myself either.

“There but for the grace of god go I”…is often the thought that enters my head when seeing my distressed neighbors.

Often they are; old, sick ladies or veterans holding a sign.

No – I don’t feel good about myself because I “care” as you suggest. Honestly I feel a little sick each time I pass by. Why don’t you?

I want to start by thanking law the enforcement officer’s and the various first responder’s who put their lives on the line to protect, defend, and care for the citizens and communities effected by the sad tragedy we all witnessed the last two days. I really appreciate the professionalism that was shown through all that happened, especially Sheriff Ian Parkinson, and Paso Robles Police Chief Ty Lewis. We all owe them so much in a different sense. Each and every one of them have earned, and definitely deserve every penny they are paid. We owe them for the things we so easily take for granted each day. The peace and sense of comfort we have most of the time around here. The safety of knowing our families can be raised in a place that still has the feel of the values we see slipping away or gone in other areas of our state or nation. We had them come from all over the central part of our state to fight and defeat pure evil if only for what might be but a moment, but they came and put THEIR LIVES on the line for our safety. This is something they will all remember for the rest of their lives. I can’t even to begin to thank all of them, especially those who were shot and injured while protecting us. I think about all of the lives that have been impacted by this visit from evil. Their families, the family of the man who was killed by this gunman, and the family of the gunman as well. Once again we see how precious life is, and how fleeting it can be at the same time. As I see other parts of our nation vilifying all police for the actions of very few, I am so thankful for what we all still have here when it comes to our law enforcement and the peace and safety we enjoy due to them. May God bless all of the officer’s, their families, and all other’s affected during this sad and tragic time.

“Lira’s father, Jose Lira, said in an interview with the Visalia Times Delta that his son had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, Asperger’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.”

Another total failure by this state and this nation in dealing with the tens of thousands of Americans who have mental health issues but have little or no access to mental health counseling. Obviously, Mr. Lira should have been in a mental health hospital getting treatment for his schizophrenia, but funding cuts to such services have been disastrous over the last 50 years—we generally only treat those who have already committed a crime rather than being ahead of things and avoiding this type of violent outburst.

If Mr. Lira had been covered by universal health care (as is the norm in every other first world nation) he may have been referred by a medical doctor. It’s likely, however, that Mr. Lira fell through the cracks and when his demons attacked, he broke and resorted to violence. When will this nation ever learn to be proactive rather than reactive toward society’s ills? My condolences to the family of the homeless man who was a victim of Mr. Lira’s illness.