Suspect shot and killed by Fresno County deputies identified, court docs reveal more about suspect

Jessica Harrington Image
Thursday, December 8, 2022
Suspect shot and killed by Fresno County deputies identified
EMBED <>More Videos

Court documents from a previous arrest are also revealing new details about the suspect.

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- New details have been released about a man accused of shooting at a Fresno County deputy and trying to blow up his family's home Tuesday morning.

The suspect, now identified as Dennis Happawana, 32, was shot and killed by deputies during a standoff north of the Belmont Country Club.

Court documents from a previous arrest are also revealing new details about the suspect.

Investigators say the 32-year-old shot at a deputy, striking his vehicle, before trying to blow up his family's home during an hours long standoff.

Two family members were rescued by SWAT members during the incident.

Wednesday afternoon, Wintergreen Avenue, north of the Belmont Country Club, was open again.

Beth Vawter lives next door to the home where everything unfolded Tuesday morning.

"I've certainly never had any problem. I haven't noticed any problems from them or anyone living in the home," Vawter said.

She says sheriff's deputies knocked on her door around four in the morning saying a gas line was cut.

Under law enforcement's recommendation, Vawter and her husband left the area.

She says she's known the Happawanas as neighbors for years and has never had an issue with them.

"It just broke my heart to find out it's actually a family member and I can't imagine how painful that is for them." Vawter said.

The Fresno County Sheriff's Office clarified Wednesday the department has not had prior calls for service at the home or past contact with Happawana.

But they did confirm he had a previous conviction for robbery in 2016 out of Riverside County.

Happawana was a doctoral student at UC Riverside at the time.

Court documents show he pleaded guilty to charges of second degree robbery and assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm.

He was sentenced to three years of probation.

In 2018, Happawana requested his probation be terminated early because he had no prior criminal history.

He also said he was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in November of 2015, after the incident happened.

A letter from the doctor who diagnosed him, which is part of the public court record, said Happawana struggled with sensory overload, poor social awareness, and the ability to deal with changes to routine and structure.

The letter stated in part, "This is a different type of individual."

"Logic often does not work for him and has much difficulty integrating different sources of information to make a decision or take an appropriate course of action."

The sheriff's office says deputies at the scene did not know about the Asperger's Syndrome diagnosis at the time of the shooting.

They say the investigation is ongoing and interviews will likely be done throughout the week with the deputies who were involved.