Today, Judge Carol Ash sentenced Jaime Caudillo to 50 years, 8 months to
life in prison for shooting a police officer, illegally possessing a firearm, and
gang activity. She also sentenced Steven Rincon, a three strikes defendant,
to 80 years to life in prison for his role in the shooting, illegally possessing a
firearm, and gang activity. On May 23, 2019, following an eleven-day trial
prosecuted by attorneys Nicole Silveira and Katie Gates, a Merced County
jury found Mr. Caudillo and Mr. Rincon, guilty of shooting a police officer,
being felons in possession of firearms, and committing the crimes for the
benefit of a criminal street gang.
Both defendants are convicted felons and active members of the Norteno criminal street gang in Merced County. Mr.Caudillo has status as a higher ranking Norteno within the gang.
On February 28, 2015, then Officer Ryan Rasmussen of the Merced Police
Department arrived to assist Officer Rinder in a routine traffic stop. Mr.
Rincon was the driver of the vehicle, and Mr. Caudillo was the passenger.
Within moments, Mr. Caudillo opened fire on Officer Rasmussen, while Mr.
Rincon sped off almost simultaneously. The shots fired by Mr. Caudillo hit
Officer Rasmussen’s hand, as well as his bulletproof vest. After a manhunt
involving support from multiple agencies and spanning several hours,
officers took both defendants into custody and discovered that Mr. Rincon
possessed a firearm.
MPD Officer Steven Odom testified as a gang expert during the trial. He
opined the crimes were committed for the benefit of the criminal street gang
and the act of shooting a police officer, the gang’s primary enemy, is the
ultimate act for violent members to demonstrate their commitment to the
As a result of the shooting, Officer Rasmussen lost his right pinky finger and
endured seven corrective surgeries. Ultimately, he was unable to continue
as a patrol officer due to the injuries he suffered in the line of duty. However,
earlier this year, Ryan Rasmussen returned to active service in law
enforcement when the Merced County District Attorney’s Office hired him as
an investigator. During the sentencing, Investigator Rasmussen told Judge
Ash he and his family will continue to fight against the criminal activities of
gang members like the defendants, vowing, “My family will not stop. They
will never quit, and, by God, they will never give up fighting people like
This is the second life sentence for Mr. Rincon. On July 30, 2019, he was
sentenced to 55 years to life in prison for his role in a 2017 jail homicide.
That sentence followed a January trial, with a jury verdict on February 1,
2019, finding Mr. Rincon guilty of first degree murder. Attorneys Matthew
Serratto and Tyson McCoy prosecuted that case.