Sheriff Mims Blames Violence on Bad Economy

October 20, 2008 7:57:52 PM PDT
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims opened her Monday afternoon news conference by saying, "It's been a very violent time in our county these past few days."Monday morning, 4 people in a car were shot at by someone in a passing car on Cherry near Central. When deputies got there they didn't find anything but 20 minutes later two 17 year olds showed up at Community Regional Medical Center. One died from a gunshot wound the other was treated for a bullet graze and released. Sheriff Mims said, "When detectives discovered the vehicle at the hospital it's riddled with bullets."

Also Monday morning, southeast of Kerman, a farm worker discovered a burned SUV in a grape vineyard. Mims said, "When they looked inside they could see there was a body in the driver's seat." Deputies are calling it a questionable death because they still don't know how the person died.

Then, Sunday morning before dawn, investigators say 4 people were walking down Weldon near Cedar when a white 4 door sedan pulled up and opened fire, hitting 3 of the 4 people. 18 year old Nicholas Kennedy of Fresno died on the scene. When deputies arrived the 2 other men who had been shot were on the ground.

The Sheriff explained that as a deputy approached one man to see if he was ok, "The subject sits up, points a gun at the deputy and the deputy is forced to protect himself and shoots the person."

That person is 28 year old Brandon Lebar. He and the other gunshot victim are in critical but stable condition. Lebar is charged with assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer. Sheriff Mims says all 4 men are members of a violent graffiti gang. "Of course I'm worried about it," Mims said. She blames the rash of deadly violence on the bad economy. "When the economy goes down we get busier. It's just a fact."

Sunday's officer-involved shooting is the third for the Fresno County Sheriff's Department this year. The number of homicides for the county stands at 18 but that could jump to 19 depending on the autopsy results for the person found in the burned SUV. Last year there were 26 homicides in Fresno County.

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