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San Bernardino sheriff’s deputy dies after desert pursuit

A 17-year veteran of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department died in a hospital after a high-speed pursuit ended in gunfire on Monday.

Sgt. Dominic Vaca, 43, of the Morongo Basin Station was shot after an attempted traffic stop in Yucca Valley, a desert community outside Joshua Tree National Park.

“The gunshot wound he sustained earlier today was too severe for him to overcome,” Sheriff John McMahon said in a video posted just before midnight Monday.

The pursuit began when deputies spotted a man riding a motorcycle with no license plate near Paxton Road and Imperial Drive just after 12:30 p.m., officials said. The deputies tried to stop the motorcyclist, but he fled, so they started chasing him.

San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies and other law enforcement officers pay their respects to Sgt. Dominic Vaca as he was transported from Desert Regional Hospital to the San Bernardino County coroner’s office.


The man abandoned his motorcycle and ran into the desert near Dumosa Avenue and Sunnyslope Drive, officials said. When deputies found him, he began shooting at them, according to McMahon.

The motorcyclist was killed when deputies returned fire, and Vaca was airlifted to a hospital.

“Our prayers are with him and his family as we all mourn this difficult time,” McMahon said.

Homicide investigators were still on the scene Tuesday morning, officials said. A handgun has been recovered.

The motorcyclist has not yet been identified.

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