Chowchilla PD: Protective fence needed following attempted ambush

CHOWCHILLA, Calif. (KFSN) -- The incident was caught on camera.

A man was arrested outside the Chowchilla Police Department after he tried to ambush an officer with a knife.

Now, Commander Jeff Palmer says they're working to get a fence around the department.

"We're one of the few agencies left that are not secured. Its been an issue for our agency. We have a history of issues back here," Palmer said.

Officers say in the surveillance video, the suspect named Paul Clingham, place a bike near a patrol unit as a distraction, then run off to hide with a large knife in his hand.

A dispatcher watching the cameras told an officer, who then walked outside.

Immediately, Clingham ran toward the officer but dropped his weapon when he saw a gun pointing back at him.

Palmer says this isn't the first time they've had a safety issue at the department, and they've wanted a fence for years.

"We've had officers assaulted while bringing prisoners in, gunshot victims show up in the back door. Some vandalism, boxes of nails dumped in the alleyway in front of our patrol cars," he said.

Palmer says when the recession hit, there weren't funds for a fence.

The back of the department faces an alley, and since there isn't a fence, it's easily accessible from the street.

The Chief of Police and Acting City administrator, Dave Riviere, says the safety of officers and employees needs to be the number one priority.

"The economy isn't an excuse any longer; the money is no excuse any longer. The safety of the officers, the safety of everybody in those building has to be the most important thing," he said.

Measure N is a public safety tax measure in place that can help fund a fence, but Riviere says he's going to look for more ways to help pay for the project.

"We'll be looking at the process of starting to secure that area and meeting with our public work director and a contract engineer," he said.

Riviere says it's long overdue, and he and other city officials will be discussing how to move the plans forward on Tuesday.

The suspect is being held at the Madera County Jail and has a warrant out of Kansas for attempted murder.

City officials say once they have the plans and they're approved by the city council, they can move forward with construction.
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