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Friday, February 15 , 2019, 10:42 pm | Fair 48º

 
 
 
 

7 Sheriff’s Deputies On Leave Following Solvang Shootout

Coroner's Office confirms Amber Alert suspect Fernando Castro, 19, was man shot dead Thursday

Amber Alert suspect Fernando Castro, 19, was pursued by law enforcement through Santa Barbara County and died after exchanging gunfire with sheriff’s deputies in Solvang.
Amber Alert suspect Fernando Castro, 19, was pursued by law enforcement through Santa Barbara County and died after exchanging gunfire with sheriff’s deputies in Solvang.  (Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

Seven Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies have been placed on administrative leave following a shootout in Solvang with the man accused of kidnapping a Vallejo girl, who remained  missing Friday.

Placing the deputies on paid leave is standard protocol following an officer-involved shooting, sheriff’s department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said Friday afternoon.

The man shot dead during the exchange of gunfire with law enforcement Thursday afternoon has been officially identified as Fernando Castro, 19, also of Vallejo, authorities said Friday.

Family members have been notified of his death, Hoover said.

Castro's autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday and the Coroner’s Office is conducting an extensive death investigation, she added.

“A determination on whether he shot himself and/or was shot and killed by law enforcement will not be made until the autopsy is complete,” Hoover said.

However, the whereabouts of kidnapping victim Pearl Pinson, 15, remained a mystery, authorities said.

Finding the girl remains the No. 1 priority for law enforcement officers, and as of Friday investigators have no information to indicate that Pearl is in Santa Barbara County, Hoover said.

“Detectives are currently going through tips and leads that have come in overnight and are working to best focus our search efforts for today,” the Solano County Sheriff’s Office said in Facebook post.

Quiet returned to Rancho Santa Ynez Estates in Solvang on Friday after a shootout occurred a day earlier between Fernando Castro and law enforcement. Click to view larger
Quiet returned to Rancho Santa Ynez Estates in Solvang on Friday after a shootout occurred a day earlier between Fernando Castro and law enforcement.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“Once the search plan has been established we will update everyone with the search location and we will be on-scene to provide media updates. Our main focus continues to be finding Pearl and reuniting her with her family,” Solano County officials said.

Northern California media outlets reported various searches occurring in Solano County.

Pearl is described as a 5-foot-3 white female, with brown hair dyed green and green eyes. She has a lower lip piercing and was last seen wearing a grey sweater and black leggings, and had a black and turquoise backpack, 

The incident that prompted the statewide Amber Alert happened in Vallejo around 7 a.m. Wednesday, when the Solano County Sheriff’s Office responded to reports of shots fired on a freeway overpass.

Pearl Pinson
Pearl Pinson

A witness reported seeing a white female being pulled by a Hispanic male on the overcrossing. The girl’s face was bleeding, and she was yelling for someone to help, Solano County officials said. 

The man involved in the incident had a gun in his hand and a witness reported hearing shots while running for help. 

The female was identified as Pearl, who never arrived at school, authorities said. They don’t know whether the girl was shot or the extent of her injuries. 

After Castro’s vehicle was spotted on Highway 101 near Los Alamos Thursday afternoon, within an hour of the Amber Alert being issued, a CHP and sheriff's department pursuit led into Solvang, ending with an exchange of gunfire between Castro and law enforcement officers in the 100 block of Val Verde near the Rancho Santa Ynez Mobile Estates.

“Investigators from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, Solano County Sheriff’s Office and FBI worked together throughout the night to process the crime scenes in Solvang and gather any potential evidence that may assist in finding Pearl,” Hoover said. “The agencies will continue to work closely together to share information and follow leads in the case.”

By Friday afternoon, calm returned to the neighborhood, although one residence had a hand-written sign in a window, saying "Law Enforcement True Heroes."

The Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone with information regarding this case or the whereabouts of Pearl Pinson to call the Solano County Sheriff’s Office’s Pearl Pinson Tip Line at 707.784.1963.   

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

A handwritten sign reflects the appreciation of residents of Rancho Santa Ynez Estates the day after a shootout involving Fernando Castro, a man sought in connection with an Amber Alert from Vallejo. No deputies or civilians were injured. Click to view larger
A handwritten sign reflects the appreciation of residents of Rancho Santa Ynez Estates the day after a shootout involving Fernando Castro, a man sought in connection with an Amber Alert from Vallejo. No deputies or civilians were injured.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

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