Man killed by rangers at Big Sur trail was murder suspect

MONTEREY, Calif. (AP) — A man killed by rangers in Big Sur after he opened fire on two hikers had been camping in the park days after he killed a driver on a San Francisco Bay Area highway, authorities said.

The hikers were about 200 feet (60 meters) from the trail’s summit last weekend when Kevin Alaniz, 26, of Milpitas confronted them and said, “This is my world,” Monterey District Attorney Jeannine Pacioni said Friday.

Fearing for their safety, the hikers turned around the steep trail in Big Sur, a popular tourist destination along California’s central coast, and as they were hiking down they heard several shots, she said.

“Four to five shots ring out — one of which whizzes past his head and strikes a tree,” Pacioni said.

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The hikers hurried down the steep 4.5-mile (7-kilometer) trail, warning other hikers. When they detected a cellphone signal after hiking for 45 minutes, they called authorities, she said.

Three park rangers who responded to the 911 call last Saturday saw Alaniz walking calmly down the trail, shirtless, wearing a backpack and with a gun on his waistband, Pacioni said.

He ignored the officers’ commands to put his hands up, pulled out his gun, pointed it at the rangers several times and continued to walk the switchback area of the trail, she said.

One of rangers also said he’d heard at least one shot from Alaniz, Pacioni added.

Fearing for theirs and their colleagues’ lives, two rangers fired their weapons, striking Alaniz, who died at the scene, she said.

Investigators who searched his backpack and car found hollow-point-type bullets, a military-grade medical staunch for gunshot wounds, and suspected psychedelic mushrooms. They also found Alaniz’s campsite near the trail’s summit, she said.

The hikers reported that Alaniz was acting erratically when he came up to them, Pacioni said. She said investigators have not uncovered any evidence of mental illness. 

Last week, the California Highway Patrol identified Alaniz as the suspect in a June 17 car-to-car shooting that killed Matthew Rios, CHP Officer Ross Lee said at a news conference Thursday when authorities gave more details of the Big Sur shooting.

The men were acquaintances, Lee said.

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