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Suspect Accused of Shooting Deputy in Hesperia, Killing Man in Highland and Opening Fire on 210 Freeway Enters Not Guilty Plea

The suspect accused of attempting to kill a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy in Hesperia after allegedly fatally shooting a man in Highland and opening fire on a stretch of the 210 Freeway in Rialto pleaded not guilty during his arraignment on Monday, authorities say.

Kenneth Welch is seen in a booking photo released by the San Bernardino County DA’s office.

Kenneth Scott Welch, 37, has been charged with one count of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder of a peace officer, two counts of shooting at an occupied vehicle using a firearm and causing great bodily injury, one count of second-degree robbery and two counts of possession of a firearm by a felon, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

Welch pleaded not guilty to all charges, according to Christopher Lee of the DA’s office. The suspect’s bail was set at $5.45 million.

He faces life without the possibility of parole if convicted on the charges, but prosecutors could decide whether to seek the death penalty in the case, the release stated. That decision will come at a later time.

The Redland man’s alleged crime spree began last Tuesday night, when he is accused of firing on two cars on the 210 Freeway, authorities said. The shooting resulted in two people being injured.

Mario “Tony” Figueroa is shown in a photo released by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department on March 17, 2017.

On Wednesday, he allegedly killed 48-year-old Mario Anthony Figueroa in Highland, shooting the victim in the head, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

Figueroa was found with the gunshot wound in the middle of a street in Highland shortly after 9:30 a.m., sheriff’s officials said. Investigators believe Welch had followed Figueroa off the freeway, then shot him after he got out of his vehicle.

The shooting was unprovoked, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

Welch is then accused of robbing a gas station clerk last Thursday before shooting and wounding a deputy who had responded to the crime scene, authorities said.

The deputy, identified as Patrick Higgins, was wearing body armor at the time. He suffered “significant trauma to his chest,” and was treated for his injuries and released from a hospital that same day.

Welch was arrested in Redlands several hours after the deputy was shot.

He is scheduled to be in court again next Tuesday.

A sheriff’s poster shows bullet holes seen in a deputy’s vehicle after Kenneth Welch allegedly fired on it on March 16, 2017.