Hesperia

Suspect Arrested in Shooting of Deputy During Gas Station Robbery

He may be connected to a double shooting on the 210 Freeway in Rialto.

A man suspected of shooting a San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputy in the chest early Thursday in Hesperia has been arrested.

Deputies responded to a robbery at 12:45 a.m. near a Chevron gas station on Ranchero Road and Escondido Avenue, authorities said.

The robber assaulted an employee and stole vapes from a liquor store around 11 p.m. Sheriff's deputies started patrolling the area looking for the suspect's car and noticed a car that matched the description in the Chevron parking lot around 12:45 a.m.

When he was approached by a deputy, he ignored him. The deputy pepper sprayed him and the robber shot at the officer, investigators said.

The robber got into his car, shooting at the deputies, who fired back, authorities said. The deputies' vehicle was riddled with bullets.

A robber who shot a sheriff's deputy in the chest in Hesperia was at large Thursday morning. Annette Arreola reports live for Today in LA on Thursday, March 16, 2017.

The deputy, identified as Pat Higgins, was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, authorities said. His bulletproof vest likely saved his life.

Higgins, who has been with the department for nearly three and a half years, was released from the hospital later Thursday morning, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. He was expected to take time off to recover from significant trauma to the chest.

The robber fled in a black Chrysler 200 with paper plates, investigators said. Sheriff's officials released images of the car and suspected gunman later Thursday morning.

The suspect was identified as 37-year-old Kenneth Scott Welch of Redlands, sheriff's deputies said. Sources tell NBC4 Welch may be connected to other shootings in the Inland Empire, including a double shooting on the 210 Freeway in Rialto this week and a recent fatal shooting in Highland.

"He's a good guy, he wasn't in a lot of trouble," said a family who wanted to be identified only as Allison. "I don't think he would do something like this. He was a good person all around."

San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department
Sheriff's officials released an image of a car they believed the suspected gunman was driving on Thursday, March 16, 2017.

A Chrysler was towed away from Welch's home Thursday. The rear window was shattered and the vehicle was riddled with bullet holes.

The sheriff's department plans to discuss the case at a news conference Friday.

NBC4's Tony Shin contributed to this report.

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