The fatal shooting of two tribal members Monday has strained already tense relations between the Soboba tribe and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, with each side blaming the other for the worsening situation, reports the Riverside Press-Enterprise. A man and a woman who investigators say were armed with illegal assault rifles were shot to death Monday evening during a gunbattle with SWAT officers in a rugged area of the Soboba, police said. It was the second fatal shooting involving deputies and members of the tribe within a week. On Thursday, deputies shot and killed 26-year-old Eli Morillo as they investigated gunfire and found themselves under attack, authorities said.
Violent encounters have been escalating for months and tensions between the two side show no signs of abating. Tribal officials say deputies have been heavy-handed in their investigations into the shootings, including closing off the reservation for hours each time. Tribal Chairman Robert “Bobby” Salgado said deputies “shoot first and ask questions later.” Riverside County Sherriff Stanley Sniff called Salgado’s assertion absurd. He said the inflammatory rhetoric could make an already tense situation worse. Sniff said tribal leaders are doing little to control a small segment of the tribe that is responsible for the violence.