Police Auditor urges Fresno cops to shoot less

FRESNO, Calif.

In his first report, the auditor noted that officers have a "propensity to fire their weapons numerous times."

One of the worst examples of excessive shooting came in October of 2010 when 8 police officers fired a total of 63 bullets at a suspect. They killed the man, who had pointed a shotgun at them, but many police bullets missed their mark, hitting homes and a car in the Tower District Neighborhood.

That shooting prompted a change in policy, but Richard Rasmussen, Fresno's new Police Auditor says excessive shooting remains a problem.

"It's very apparent a number of shootings that happened recently a lot of rounds were fired. That doesn't mean any one of those rounds was improper, because each of those rounds is justified, but nonetheless it's a trend we want to control because it could lead to additional problem," Rasmussen said.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer agrees with Rasmussen's findings, and notes it is a problem the department has been working on through additional training.

"Every single shooting we look at the number of rounds that are fired and we make sure every single round was necessary to be fired," Police Chief Jerry Dyer said.

In 2009 a Fresno Police officer fired ten shots at Steven Vargas. An unarmed man who had been acting erratically, but was unarmed and sitting in his SUV after driving it onto the front lawn of a home, and hitting a parked car. Vargas was hit 8 times. The city was sued and paid more than a $1 million to Vargas' family. Their Attorney, Arturo Gonzalez said that from his office in San Francisco he was glad to see the auditor and police chief addressing the shooting issue.

Gonzalez said, "I like the fact the report talks about providing additional training for officers, not only on when to shoot but on how many times to pull the trigger. I think that's a very important thing for the citizens of Fresno to be focused on."

Gonzalez also praised the city for having an auditor to review police behavior. The auditor's report covers only the last three months of last year. There were three officer involved shootings during that time. His reports on those are still pending.

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