One man is in the Fresno County Jail and a second teenager is in custody. Police have identified a third suspect, but they said he isn't in the Fresno area and has not yet been arrested.
Three vandalism suspects -- police say -- with one goal, to spread fear in the community. That goal stopped short Thursday after a long investigation.
"The difficulty we face in law enforcement at times is not knowing when people are out vandalizing and tagging locations versus those individuals that pose a real threat to us," said Police Chief Jerry Dyer.
In a press conference, Dyer says three people who call themselves the 'Merry Men' have been marking anti-establishment graffiti across Fresno since July. Their most recent tag at Bullard High School on Tuesday. Then late Wednesday night copy-cats added fuel to the fire. Police say two separate suspects who aren't a part of the 'Merry Men' made threats to shoot up the school. With rumors swirling online, 800 students chose to stay home. Then administrators cut school short Thursday morning after one of 'Merry Men' emailed the principal a bomb threat.
"We swept the campus while the students were in classes to make sure we were reasonably sure they were not credible, we wanted to make sure that our preliminary sweep of the campus, bathrooms, trash cans and all the rest of that," said Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson.
Fresno PD and the school district sent students home at noon. And a search warrant was served at the home of 18-year-old Aaron Nevarez and his 17-year-old brother. Police say that's where they found writings similar to the tagging.
"We have also located at the residence firearms. Some of them were airsoft guns. Some of them were rifles. Some of them were paint rifles some of them were actual firearms. And we believe they belong to Aaron Nevarez," said Dyer.
The two copy-cat suspects have also been tracked down and could be facing charges. Navarez has been charged with three felonies involving vandalism and more could be filed.
The Fresno Police Department is holding a press conference late Friday morning where they'll release more pictures and information about the suspects involved.
Neighbors defend suspects in Bullard HS threat investigation
By Rick Montanez
Activities have begun again at Bullard High School following a campus evacuation Thursday stemming from a bomb threat.
Students were back on campus for several sports practices. As stunned as some of them are about what happened on campus Thursday the suspects' neighbors are equally surprised by the accusations.
Investigators spent part of the chaotic day serving a search warrant at a home on Barstow Avenue.
Neighbors watched, wondering what it was all about. Now they're defending the brothers arrested, a 17-year-old and his 18-year-old brother Aaron Nevarez.
"It's really kind of hard to believe," said Norma McSwain. "They seemed to be such a nice family."
McSwain says she only really interacted with one of the boys. But she finds the accusations of vandalism and bomb threats hard to believe. "He introduced himself and said he was living in the house and we said if you need anything please call us or come on over," she said. "He seemed to be a very fine young man."
Another neighbor said the boys come from a nice, Christian family. He says they're too good to do what police are accusing them of.
Nevarez was interviewed for an Action News story about training to be a Marine, just like his father. But, because of his arrest, a U.S. Marines spokesman confirms to Action News that Nevarez has been fully discharged from the delayed entry program.
After being evacuated midway through classes, campus activities seemed to return to normal in the evening, with football practice.
Joell Acevedo is one of 800 students who avoided class altogether because of the threats.
"You don't know what can happen," he said. "You just need to understand it's better to be safe than sorry."
As federal and local investigators look further into the case we've also discovered images posted to Instagram with the hashtag The Merry Men of the Valley, pictures of the vandalism and damage they're accused of doing.
Many students say they feel comfortable returning since they know the investigation is so large at this point.