Gunman kills homeless man and shoots four officers before dying in firefight

Photo by Richard Bastian


A suspect in a two day Paso Robles shooting spree that left one man dead and four law enforcement officers injured was shot and killed in a firefight Thursday afternoon. 

Over the span of a day and a half, Mason James Lira, 26, shot a San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s deputy, an Arroyo Grande police officer, a California Highway Patrol officer and a Kings County sheriff’s deputy, each of whom are expected to recover. Lira was believed to have been schizophrenic and suffering from other mental conditions.

Shortly after 3 a.m. Wednesday, Mason James Lira, 26, began firing at officers at Paso Robles police station.

Deputy Nicholas Dreyfus, 28, and another deputy went to assist in the manhunt. While the two deputies searched the downtown area, the gunman shot Drefus in the face.

Dreyfus was then flown to a trauma center out of the area where he underwent surgery for his injuries. He is listed in guarded condition.

Later in the morning, Lira shot and killed a 59-year-old homeless man near the Paso Robles Amtrak station at 8th and Pine stress.

Photo by Richard Bastian

At about 10:20 p.m. on Wednesday, another confrontation occurred after a report of shots fired in the 200 block of Spring Street. Lira fled into an apartment complex.

Officers surrounded the apartment complex, but Lira escaped south through the Salinas riverbed.

At about 2 a.m. Thursday, Lira was spotted at a Paso Robles Chevron station in the 1800 block of Ramada Drive. Her purchased an energy drink and food. 

Officers responded, and a shootout ensued near Highway 46 and Ramada Drive. Lira escaped again, retreating into the riverbed

Later Thursday morning, law enforcement launched a search of the riverbed starting at the Paso Robles fairgrounds.

Mason James Lira

After recognizing Lira as a homeless man who camped near the riverbed, bounty hunter Richard Dunbar informed law enforcement where they would likely find Lira. Law enforcement then focused their search on an area of the riverbed not far from Firestone Brewery.

At about 2 p.m., Lira shot Arroyo Grande Police Sergeant Michael Smiley in the calf near Ramada Drive and Volpi Ysabel Road in Paso Robles.

Lira retreated and later emerged from a nearby hideout in the riverbed. Lira crawled up an embankment and ran toward a vineyard. 

A shootout ensued in which Lira shot a CHP officer in the bullet-proof vest. He then shot Kings County deputy Blake Bursiaga in the knee as the deputy was trying to rescue the injured CHP officer.

At about 4 p.m., Lira tried to flee the riverbed toward Highway 101 and was shot by officers. Responders pronounced Lira dead at the scene. 

Officers found Lira in possession of two loaded handguns believed to have been stolen during a commercial burglary in the city of SLO earlier this week. 

Lira’s father, Jose Lira, said in an interview with the Visalia Times Delta that his son had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, Asperger’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Jose Lira said his son would often think he was a special agent or a soldier and may have believed he was under attack or in a war zone. 

“He lives in a fantasy world,” Jose Lira said. “He doesn’t have a beef with the police.”

Jose Lira also said his son’s ambush of the Paso Robles Police Department may have been a suicide attempt.

In videos he posted on his Facebook page, Lira talked about traveling into the future and the past, mind control and loving a daughter, even though he was unable to remember who the child’s mother was.