Sergio Munoz was known around this small desert city to acquaintances as a personable dad, and to police for his long rap sheet.
In recent weeks, he began losing the moorings of a stable life — his job, then his family. Kicked out of the house, he had been staying at a friend’s place, using and dealing heroin.
Life fully unraveled when Munoz, 39, with two hostages in his trunk, led officers on a wild chase Friday after killing a woman and injuring his crash-pad friend. He shot the friend after he had refused to join what Munoz planned would be a final rampage against police and “snitches.”
Munoz knew the authorities well enough that after the initial, pre-dawn slaying he called one patrol officer’s cellphone and announced that he wanted to kill all police in town.
Because he would be outgunned at the station he would instead “wreak havoc” elsewhere, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said Friday.
Munoz kept his word, first firing at drivers in Ridgecrest, according to police, then taking shots at pursuing officers and passing motorists during a chase along 30 miles of highway that runs through the shrub-dotted desert about 150 miles north of Los Angeles.
He ran traffic off the road, firing at least 10 times at passing vehicles with a shotgun and a handgun, though no one was hurt.
In the end, Munoz pulled over on U.S. 395, turned in his seat and began shooting into the trunk — which had popped open earlier in the pursuit to reveal a man and woman inside.
As many as seven officers opened fire and killed him.
The hostages were flown to a hospital in critical condition, but were expected to survive.
Their names have not been released and police have not said anything about their relationship to Munoz.
On Saturday morning, Munoz’s 15-year-old daughter, Viviana, reflected on her father’s life in a Facebook post.
“You’re such a great dad when you were not on drugs,” she wrote. “You were a good father and person, you just made a sad choice.”