Fowler farmer shot, accused of assault

FRESNO, Calif.

65-year-old /*Donnie Srabian*/ was not an imposing figure on the witness stand. Not until he put on the ski mask Deputy Frank Harper says Srabian wore on the dark night of their confrontation in Feb. 2007.

Srabian came out of his family's Fowler home armed with a semi-automatic handgun. The raisin farmer says he had no idea a sheriff's deputy was on his property. He just knew he wasn't expecting anybody, but someone was there.

"It doesn't make sense that Mr. Srabian would come out and point a gun at an officer if he knew it was an officer," said defense attorney Sal Sciandra.

Deputy Harper was responding to a 911 hang-up, which the phone company now believes was just a malfunctioning phone. He testified that he saw someone rush out of the house wearing a ski mask and holding a gun.

Harper thought he'd interrupted a home invasion. He says Srabian ran towards his squad car, got into a crouch, and aimed the gun at him. The deputy opened fire and hit Srabian in the abdomen.

But Srabian says he doesn't remember putting the ski mask on and the gun never left his side. His attorney says his client was just protecting his property.

"It's one thing if you're in the middle of town and somebody knocks on your front door and you open up and point a gun at them," said Sciandra. "It's another thing if you're on a farm property where there's a history of thefts and a high crime area."

Prosecutors argue Srabian knew it was a sheriff's deputy on his property. He faces four charges, including assault on a peace officer.

He could face as much as nine years in prison. He's also filed a civil rights lawsuit against Deputy Harper and the sheriff's department.

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