A Redlands man was found guilty by a jury on all charges stemming from a 2017 shooting spree in the Inland Empire that injured three people, including a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy, and killed a man in Highland, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office announced.
Kenneth Scott Welch, 42, was convicted in San Bernardino County Superior Court on June 8 for the March 2017 shooting spree that left victims in Rialto, Highland and Hesperia, DA officials said.
Welch was found guilty of first-degree murder, attempted murder of a police officer, two counts of shooting at an occupied motor vehicle and special circumstance charges of the discharge of a firearm causing great bodily injury and being a felon in possession of ammunition, the DA’s Office said in a news release.
Welch is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 5 and faces a possibility of life in prison without the possibility of parole, officials said.
Over a three-day span, Welch’s actions resulted in the death of Mario Figueroa, 48, of Redlands, the attempted murder of San Bernardino County sheriff’s Deputy Patrick Higgins, the shooting of two men on the 210 Freeway in Rialto that injured them and the robbery of a gas station clerk.
On March 14, 2017, Welch started what authorities called a “rampage” by shooting a motorist in the leg while driving west on the 210 Freeway in Rialto. He then left the freeway, turned around and found another motorist headed east on the freeway and shot them in the arm.
The next morning, March 15, Welch decided to follow Figueroa who was driving on the 210 Freeway and exited the freeway in Highland. Welch continued to follow him before Figueroa decided to pull over, get out of his car and speak to Welch for about 30 seconds before being shot in the head, the DA’s Office said.
Later that night, Welch took multiple items from a Hesperia gas station and punched the clerk when they confronted him. The clerk then called 911 and Deputy Higgins responded to the location.
After having initially left the gas station, Welch returned while Higgins was completing his investigation and Higgins confronted Welch, instructing him to get out of his car, the DA’s Office said. Welch refused, then opened fire at the deputy, striking him once in his side, authorities said.
Welch was ultimately taken into custody the following morning, March 16, authorities said.
Welch was found to be high on methamphetamine at the time of his arrest, authorities said. Despite claims of schizophrenia, hallucinations, head injuries and methamphetamine-induced disorders, Welch admitted under cross-examination that he was “capable of willful, deliberate and premeditated murder while high,” officials said.
The jury deliberated for only 30 minutes before reaching the verdict, the DA’s Office said.
Deputy District Attorney Justin Crocker, the prosecutor in the case, said Welch is an example of the type of criminal special circumstance laws are designed to “punish and remove from society.”
“The random acts of violence perpetrated by this defendant throughout our county were abhorrent” Crocker said. “Former Deputy Higgins’ bravery and courage in the face of danger was remarkable and likely saved lives.
“I am thankful the jurors saw through the defendant’s testimony and delivered justice to the victims of these tragedies.”