Kings County Sheriff: Wanted man shot dead after pointing handgun at deputy

A man caught in a field at the end of a multi-day crime spree pointed a handgun at a Kings County Sheriff’s deputy Thursday night, leading another deputy to fatally wound the man.

In a news release Friday afternoon, Assistant Sheriff Robert Thayer said the man has been identified as Blayne Erwin Morris, 23, from the Coalinga and Watsonville areas. He was chased by sheriff’s deputies and other law enforcement because he was driving a car sought by authorities in Fresno County.

The shooting took place after a chase of about 12 miles ended near Gale Avenue and the Avenel Cutoff Road about 10 p.m.

The incident unfolded after a Kings County deputy saw a car that matched a vehicle mentioned in an officer safety bulletin put out by the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, Commander Mark Bevens said. When the deputy tried to stop the car at 19th Avenue and Highway 198 in Lemoore, it sped away and officers from the Avenal Police Department and the California Highway Patrol along with a helicopter joined in the pursuit. Morris stopped the car and ran west from the area of Gale and Avenal Cutoff and the CHP helicopter spotted him trying to hide in the field.

Thayer said that as four deputies approached Morris he ignored orders to show his hands. A sheriff’s dog was set free to control him with deputies following close behind intending to handcuff Morris, but he rolled to his side and pointed the handgun at a deputy. Another deputy fired one shot. The deputies gave first aid but Morris was pronounced dead at the scene. The deputies were placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation.

Fresno County Sheriff’s spokesman Tony Botti said agricultural crimes task force deputies put out an alert on the vehicle Morris was driving because it was possibly connected to burglaries.

Thayer elaborated, saying Morris had allegedly been on a multi-day crime spree in and around Fresno and San Benito counties stealing at least two trucks, a trailer and farm equipment. In one incident Morris got hold of a rifle that he used to shoot a property owner who interrupted one of the crimes in San Benito County, Thayer said.