Five officer involved fatal shootings in SLO County in 13 months

July 8, 2021

Shootout with Mason Lira in the North County. Photo by Richard Bastian

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

In the span of a little more than a year, San Luis Obispo County has had five fatal officer-involved shootings.

Authorities shot and killed the suspect in each of the shootings. Collectively, the shootings also resulted in one officer being killed and five others suffering injuries.

Of the five deceased suspects, two were San Luis Obispo County residents, two did not live in SLO County and one was thought to be living in both Los Angeles and Paso Robles.

The first of the five fatal shootings occurred last June at the end of a manhunt that spanned more than a day. On June 10, 2020, Mason Lira, a 26-year-old transient who often lived in Monterey, ambushed the Paso Robles Police Department, firing shots at officers and leading staff to request backup. While two SLO County Sheriff’s deputies searched the downtown area, Lira shot Deputy Nicholas Dreyfus in the face. Lira then shot and killed a 59-year-old homeless man.

The next day, following several more gun battles with officers, Lira shot Arroyo Grande Police Sergeant Michael Smiley in the calf. As officers closed in on Lira, he shot CHP officer Tim Maxwell in the bulletproof vest. Lira then shot Kings County Sheriff’s Deputy Blake Bursiaga in the knees as the deputy dragged the injured CHP officer to safety. Lira tried to flee the riverbed heading toward Highway 101, but officers shot and killed him.

On Aug. 21, 2020, 42-year-old Scott Huffman of Bakersfield became involved in an argument with a woman in the Vons parking lot on Tefft Street in Nipomo. Huffman started shooting in the air as the woman drove away. After shooting multiple rounds at the Vons gas station exterior door, Huffman walked toward Tefft Street as he continued to fire multiple rounds toward businesses on the south side of Tefft Street.

Shootout at the Vons parking lot in Nipomo

Huffman shot multiple rounds at a Cal Fire firetruck that was traveling eastbound on Tefft Street responding to an unrelated call for service, hitting the passenger door multiple times. He then walked onto the center median of Tefft Street and pointed his handgun at motorists.

The Bakersfield man went inside the gas station and shot three rounds, while employees locked themselves in an office. He then exited the building and a shootout with law enforcement ensued. Officers shot and killed Huffman during the gun battle.

On Sept. 24, 2020, Christopher Straub of Templeton, who had belonged to the Sick Boyz and had an outstanding warrant, fled by foot from deputies who attempted to detain him. Straub, 38, ran through a vineyard to Templeton Cemetery, hid and then ambushed deputies, firing multiple rounds from a handgun and striking Deputy Richard “Ted” Lehnhoff once in the leg.

Shortly afterwards, Straub tried to return to his vehicle, which contained loaded firearms. A gun battle ensued, during which deputies shot and killed Straub.

On May 10, 2021, six officers attempted to serve a search warrant at the San Luis Obispo apartment of burglary suspect Edward Giron, 37. Officers knocked and announced they were there, but Giron did not open the door. After an extended amount of time, officers broke down the door to find Giron armed and lying in wait. Giron fired at the officers, who returned fire and retreated.

Detective Luca Benedetti

During the shootout, Giron shot and killed SLO Police Detective Luca Benedetti, 37. Detective Steve Orozco was shot multiple times but survived. Officers reportedly shot Giron 13 times. Giron also fatally shot himself in the head.

Then earlier this week, Paso Robles police and regional SWAT officers engaged in a more than eight-hour standoff with Steven Adam Calderon, 32. Calderon, who appeared to be living in both Los Angeles and Paso Robles, barricaded himself in an apartment at the Dry Creek complex after allegedly firing a pistol in the air and threatening to shoot his girlfriend.

During the standoff, Calderon emerged from the home multiple times and fired several shots from his handgun at police officers and the SWAT team. Some of the shots hit a Bearcat, an armored vehicle that SWAT officers brought to the scene.

Officers deployed tear gas and different chemical agents inside the home to try to get Calderon out. Calderon refused to surrender.

At about 1:15 a.m. Tuesday, Calderon emerged from the home, set his gun down on a porch and began discussing various topics with SWAT officers. At one point, Calderon lunged toward the gun, and he was fatally struck by gunfire from the SWAT team, Paso Robles Police Chief Ty Lewis said.


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mazin

“Of the five deceased suspects, two were San Luis Obispo County residents”. Would be interesting to know how much of our serious crime comes from out-of-the-County folks, and how many from County residents. Perhaps we should consider some variation of a check point system, perhaps an automated license plate scan data feed upon County entry?

Also, relationship and job loss counseling advert program. These seem to be violent crime themes.

Kudos to our officers and to our mental health folks.


derasmus

Tracking CITIZENS via license plates, yeah, great idea.


Why don’t we just farm that out to Facebook, Google. Twitter, (I’m CCP).


Got to be kidding!


sardonicsentiment

Few jobs are as tough as police work. Not many have the guts to even try. Be grateful for those that do.


Mitch C

No one needs a cop until you need a cop. Thanks to the brave men/women in blue who stand to protect us and our way of life.


shelworth

This is more of a condemnation of the lawlessness of a segment of our population than anything our Officers in Blue have done. Department stores in San Francisco have to close early due to crime, rioters in the Pacific Northwest have destroyed billions of dollars in property, all of them are on video yet only a very few get charged with anything. Please think about this the next time you vote.


mazin

Left out the Capitol insurrection, 151 officers injured and more not reported. We need to be all inclusive when opposing violence because one side justifies itself by saying it is fighting the other side, a synergy between opposing groups.

Also, it costs an average of about $81,000 per year to incarcerate an inmate in prison in California.


Jon Tatro

Mazin you want to know how many of those inmates commit crimes against the public while incarcerated, Zero.


derasmus

Nope , beg to differ, no insurrection. Riot, yes, absolutely, just like all of the riots last year that caused billions (yes billions) of dollars worth of damage and led to at least 24 murders. And when I say murders I’m not speaking about having a stroke or heart attack hours after the event, such as the case in the Jan 6 riot in DC.


Riot yes, insurrection nope.


WORDS MATTER


mazin

Insurrection is defined “a violent uprising against an authority or government.”

Let’s see violent attack against Congress assembled to count electoral votes including threats to hang various elected leaders. Qualifies as an insurrection, premeditated one, not everybody in attendance but the Capitol stormers and police assailants, sure. Those behind this?

Just like the Portland “protestors” are premeditated assailants on a Federal Court, officer attackers, wanna be insurrectionists. Those behind this?

The far Left wants to rationalize what Portland and other violent destructive acts are. The far Right wants to rationalize what the Capitol insurrectionists and other violent destructive acts of accelerationists are.

Best to call them all out, objectively, truthfully.


derasmus

I call those folks out for the damage that they did. Breaking into the capital, threatening people breaking windows especially the fact that it was on the US capital, very bad in deed!!


However, burning a small business down, murdering somebody or beating the hell out of them in the street, an innocent bystander I think that’s worse! Just my opinion.


Worse yet, the one single bit of gun violence at the capital riot on January 6 was done by a police officer to an unarmed 5’3” woman! How come we don’t know the name of that person?


Yeah call it like it is, I agree, but my sense is that you have been, and still continue to be, very biased in your treatment concerning violence and civil unrest this past year. Because it has to do with Trump I suppose.


Just calling it like I see it.