SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A man who was in the United States illegally was sentenced to 21 months in prison Wednesday for helping a suspect try to escape to his native Mexico after officials say he killed a California police officer.
Erik Quiroz Razo, 28, of Merced, had faced a maximum of five years in prison for aiding and abetting Paulo Virgen Mendoza, who is charged with murder in the Dec. 26, 2018, shooting death of Cpl. Ronil Singh during a traffic stop.
President Donald Trump had used the case to back his call for tougher border security during a dispute with congressional Democrats over funding for a border wall.
Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson previously said California’s sanctuary law prevented authorities from reporting Mendoza to immigration officials for possible deportation after two previous drunken driving arrests.
Investigators say Singh, who worked for the tiny Newman Police Department, stopped Mendoza on suspicion of drunken driving before he was killed. Mendoza has pleaded not guilty.
A federal jury in September convicted Quiroz of concealing the truck Mendoza was driving, disposing of the firearm used to kill the officer, and lying to Stanislaus County deputies.
The same jury also convicted Mendoza’s brother, Conrado Virgen Mendoza, 34, of Chowchilla, who awaits sentencing on similar charges. Authorities say he arranged for a smuggler to take his brother across the border, but he was found and arrested at a house two days after Singh’s killing.
The suspect’s girlfriend, Ana Leydi Cervantes Sanchez, 31, was sentenced last year to a year and a day in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to help her boyfriend’s attempted escape.
Another brother, Adrian Virgen Mendoza, 26, previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year and nine months in prison.
U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott in a statement called the slaying of an on-duty police officer “an assault on the entire community.” He said Quiroz Razo is a convicted felon and previously deported immigrant who “played a critical role in helping a man accused of killing a police officer to elude apprehension.”