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Merced County deputy shot in Delhi
Return fire kills suspect
Deputy Alejandro Barba
Merced County Sheriff's Deputy Alejandro Barba was shot in the line of duty Thursday, while responding to a domestic dispute call in Delhi. He is expected to make a full recovery. - photo by Photo Contributed

A Merced County Sheriff’s deputy was wounded and a suspect killed when a domestic dispute in Delhi erupted into gunfire Thursday night.

The deputy was identified by the sheriff’s department as Alejandro Barba, a 16-year veteran of the force. He has undergone surgery and is expected to make a full recovery.

The suspect has been identified as Juan Torres, 38, of Delhi.

“We are afraid of this every moment every single day,” said Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke.

The sheriff’s department was dispatched to a domestic dispute in progress in the 16200 block of Harmony Ranch Drive in Delhi around 6 p.m. Thursday. The caller stated there was a physical fight between a husband and wife.

As deputies arrived at the residence about four minutes after the call, Torres came out of the home with an assault-style weapon and opened fire on them, according to the sheriff’s department. Barba was struck in the lower torso and the thigh during the gunfire. Merced County Deputy Adam Leuchner returned fire and killed Torres.

Leuchner has been with the department for eight years. He was previously involved in a deadly shooting when he returned gunfire at Brian Hiatt, 49, outside the Motel 6 in Turlock in May 2014. Hiatt was wanted by the sheriff’s department for the fatal shooting of Ronda Hiatt, 47, of Mariposa, and Lisa Robbins, 51, of Hilmar. As per protocol, Leuchner will be placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation into the shooting.

Barba was air-lifted to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto for surgery.

Torres’ family members were in the home at the time of the shooting.  None of the family members were injured.

Sheriff’s records indicate a few contacts between Torres and deputies since 2008, as well as several arrests by the Livingston Police Department during the same time period.

Numerous law enforcement agencies, including the Turlock Police Department and the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, responded to the scene and the neighborhood was blocked off for several hours as investigators processed the scene.

Warnke said it had been several years since a deputy had been shot in the line of duty.

“Violence is escalating on a daily basis,” Warnke said. “It’s not just here, it’s everywhere. The fortunate part of our society is we have officers who are willing to put on a badge and go out and handle these situations.”