Fresno County farmer pulls gun to stop robbery

FRESNO, Calif.

The farm is just a few miles from the highly populated city of Fresno, but it's still fairly isolated. That can make farmers targets for criminals, but they're determined not to be easy marks.

A would-be robber saw green when he drove past a /*Fresno County*/ alfalfa field. Sheriff's investigators say the man turned onto this dirt road late at night, turned off his headlights and drove up to the farmer watering the field. But when he ordered the farmer to empty his pockets, the farmer didn't pull out any cash. He pulled out a gun.

"The subject got back in his car hurriedly and drove away," said Fresno County Sheriff's Office spokesman Chris Curtice.

/*Mike Cooper*/ was the farmer and his neighbor across the street is /*Tom Freitas*/.

Freitas says the would-be robber threatened revenge on his neighbor as he ran away. And he says it's getting dangerous to be on the fields. One of his crews got held up in broad daylight, just a mile away.

"They were working and it was three guys came up on them, threw guns in their faces and robbed them right there," said Freitas.

He says the series of crimes on farms has him giving advice to all his neighbors and employees.

"I've warned all my workers and everyone else, 'If you're in certain positions or certain areas, you just have to be really cautious,'" he said. "I say, 'Hey, carry your weapon to protect yourself.'"

Sheriff's investigators say they're seeing a lot of farmers heeding that advice, especially in the more remote areas.

"I know that a lot of people that work out there are armed now for that very reason," Curtice said. "They're out there. They're kind of sitting ducks."

Investigators say the suspect was driving a dark-colored, early 90s model Toyota Camry or Nissan Maxima. They say he told Cooper he was getting friends from the Fig and North area - about 3 miles away in the city of Fresno -- so they're checking that area for the car.

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