Fresno Police Kill Erratic Driver

October 27, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Witnesses said the man driving the red SUV appeared to be under the influence of something. It's not clear if he had a weapon, but the police officer who shot him thought the man posed a danger. Fresno Police and Investigators for the Fresno County Sheriff's Department are still sorting out exactly what happened.        |   Watch Video Above for More Information on this Story   |

Witnesses said the man drove his red SUV the wrong way and was weaving down McKinley, crossing from the Eastbound, to the Westbound lane. The vehicle then went onto the yard of a house and hit a car parked in the driveway. The resident of the house ran out to see what happened, but neighbors pulled her away and flagged down a passing police car.

In a news conference at the scene Fresno County Sheriff's Deputy Chris Curtice described what happened. He said, "The Fresno PD Officer got out of his vehicle, went up and confronted the subject who was seated in the SUV on the driver's side. The officer ordered the subject to get out of the car numerous times. At that point there was a shooting, an Officer Involved Shooting."

Three witnesses told Action News the officer fired several shots, emptying his weapon. The man was rushed to the hospital but died. The Sheriff's Department is investigating since the incident occurred in a county island. One question is whether the suspect had a weapon.

One witness, a man, who didn't want to be identified, told us in Spanish the man in the SUV had a knife, but not a gun. A couple who live just two doors down from the scene and rushed to help their neighbor told us in Spanish that they thought the police officer acted too quickly. Both said they did not see any weapon. They said the man in the SUV did seem to keep trying to drive away until he was shot. After colliding with the car in the driveway he apparently tried to back up, but the wheels of his SUV spun ruts in the soft dirt of the yard, stranding the vehicle.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer says the officer who fired the shots is a nearly 30 year veteran of the force and acted to protect himself and others. "What we do know is there was information given to him that the suspect was armed at that time that was the information told to him by one of the citizens. And when he confronted the individual in the vehicle he felt threatened and fired upon the suspect." Dyer said.

The victims brother and other family members arrived at the scene about four hours after the incident. They shouted at police demanding to know why they weren't notified. They said they saw the shooting on TV. The suspects brother told us there was no weapon, but said his brother was holding a cell phone.

The sheriff's department says it is too soon to say if the man actually had a weapon. His name had not been released as of Tuesday night. He is 32 years old and from Fresno. According to Dyer the dead man had an extensive criminal record and was on parole.



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