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Big Sur park rangers shoot, kill armed Milpitas homicide suspect

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A Milpitas man suspected in a homicide on Interstate Highway 680 last week was shot and killed by state park officers in Big Sur Saturday, the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office and the California Highway Patrol said Thursday.

Kevin Anthony Alaniz, 26, was reported by hikers he allegedly shot at on Big Sur’s Mount Manuel Trail at 6:10 p.m. Saturday. The narrow, rugged trail runs about 4.5 miles from the summit to its mouth, located in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park near state Highway 1.

The two hikers were about 200 feet from the summit at 5:15 p.m. when they encountered Alaniz. According to a 911 recording played by District Attorney Jeannine Pacioni at a news conference Thursday, he approached one hiker, got close to his face and said:

“This is my world.”

She said Alaniz’s pupils also appeared to be extremely dilated. The hikers began walking away from the man and continued up to the summit, but became uncomfortable with the exchange and decided to walk back down the trail. When they again encountered Alaniz on the way down, he approached them, but stopped.

The hikers started running away from the man and heard a gunshot about a quarter-mile later. They quickened their pace and heard four to five additional shots, with one whizzing past a hiker and striking a tree.

They didn’t have service to call 911, so they continued running down the trail and warning other hikers to turn back and leave the area. About 45 minutes after first hearing the gunshots, the hikers were able to call state park officers.

Supervisor Matthew Khalar and Officer Brian Powell responded to the scene by 6:37 p.m., and met the hikers about 4.2 miles from where they had first encountered Alaniz. The officers cleared the area of remaining hikers and found an area of safe cover to wait for additional resources. They were joined by Officer Bernadette Davis, and first observed Alaniz at 6:57 p.m. Pacioni said he was shirtless with a backpack, walking calmly down the trail.

Khalar announced officers were in the area and asked Alaniz to put his hands up, but he didn’t comply, Pacioni said. Alaniz stopped momentarily, then began walking toward the officers. He was about 65 feet from officers when Powell saw him remove a black handgun from his right side waistband.

Powell began yelling:

“Gun!”

Powell heard one gunshot, at which point he fired back three rounds with a semi-automatic rifle. Alaniz continued walking toward them with a gun pointed. Powell fired an additional three rounds, and Khalar fired three rounds with a shotgun.

They lost sight of Alaniz and a Monterey County sheriff’s deputy sent his drone camera to the scene to determine if he was hiding or had been shot. The drone determined that Alaniz was incapacitated and officers moved closer to find he had been shot and killed.

Officers later found over 300 rounds of ammunition in his backpack, in addition to the loaded Glock 20 SF 10mm pistol he was using to shoot at the hikers and officers. He had purchased his gun legally in October 2017, Pacioni said.

The investigation later connected him to a fatal car-to-car shooting at about 10 p.m on June 17 at northbound Highway 680 north of Landess Avenue in Milpitas.

The CHP had obtained an arrest warrant for Alaniz in the killing of 30-year-old Matthew Rios when they were informed of the Big Sur standoff. The two men knew each other and the shooting is believed to have been targeted, CHP Officer Ross Lee said. The agency will not elaborate on their relationship at this time.

Alaniz is not suspected in any other highway shootings that happened in the Bay Area last week.

Toxicology results have not been completed to determine if Alaniz was under the influence of any drugs at the time of the shooting. Pacioni said he is suspected to have had psychedelic mushrooms in his possession. Law enforcement officials found his vehicle at the Big Sur Lodge, in addition to a makeshift camp with some of his belongings near the summit of Mount Manuel Trail. They believe he arrived at Big Sur Friday and may have been hiding out in the area after the highway shooting.

An investigation into the highway shooting is ongoing. The district attorney’s office will determine if officers were justified in their fatal shooting of Alaniz.

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