NEWMAN, Calif. (AP) - The police chief of a tiny California town fought back tears as he described the officer gunned down during a traffic stop as a patriot who fought hard to serve his adopted country while the man suspected of killing him crossed the border illegally and is a "coward."
Cpl. Ronal Singh, who emigrated from his native Fiji, was shot at about 1 a.m. Wednesday after stopping a suspected drunken driver in Newman, southeast of San Francisco in the San Joaquin Valley.
There was a gunfight as Singh "absolutely tried to defend himself" but he apparently didn't hit the suspect, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson, whose agency is leading the investigation, said Thursday.
The man suspected of killing him the day after Christmas remained at large Friday despite a manhunt and was considered armed and dangerous.
While law enforcement agencies throughout California had been alerted, the man was believed to still be in the local area.
"We will find him, we will arrest him and we will bring him to justice," the sheriff said.
Investigators Thursday searched a farmhouse in the town of El Nido in neighboring Merced County but didn't find the suspect, authorities said.
His name wasn't released but he was in the United States illegally.
"He doesn't belong here. He is a criminal," Christianson said Thursday.
President Donald Trump, whose demand that Congress approve $5 billion for a U.S. southern border wall has led to a partial government shutdown, tweeted Thursday about Singh's killing, ending with: "Time to get tough on Border Security. Build the Wall!"
Newman's police chief said the department and its 12 sworn officers were grieving.
Singh was the first officer to die in the line of duty, Chief Randy Richardson said.
Singh, a 33-year-old with a newborn son, was an "American patriot," the chief said.
"He came to America with one purpose, and that was to serve this country," Richardson said.
Singh drove more than two hours each way to attend the police academy in Yuba City, Richardson said. He joined the Merced County sheriff's office as a reserve officer and worked as an animal control officer in Turlock before being hired by the Newman force in 2011.
English was Singh's third language and he had a thick accent but took speech classes to improve his communication, the chief said.
Singh is survived by his wife, Anamika, and their 5-month-old son.
"Please help us find this coward," Richardson said of Singh's killer. "We need closure, his family needs closure."
Anyone with information regarding the identity of the suspect is asked to contact Detective Michael Fisher at 209-525-7083 or dispatch at 209-552-2468.