History between suspect and Fresno County deputy he shot could lead to life sentence

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The man facing attempted murder charges after shooting a Fresno County sheriff's deputy last week is not admitting to any crimes.

Fresno County sheriff's deputy John Erickson is getting better every day and had enough strength this weekend to give a thumbs up when Sheriff Margaret Mims went to visit him in the hospital.

The man accused of putting him there pleaded not guilty Monday.

Erickson and Michael Congdon apparently have a history.

The 57-year-old suspect had a long property dispute with a neighbor and his son says Erickson refused to help, even after Congdon got a restraining order against his neighbor.

"This deputy was called up every single case, every call, everything," Brandon Lowery told us last week. "And there have been times he's laughed at my dad's face."

"If he's had issues with this sheriff's deputy before and he sees the sheriff driving up and he starts shooting at him, that's a problem for the defense," said legal analyst Tony Capozzi. "He's in a state of anger as it is and maybe even rage and he starts shooting at him. He's mad. He's just shooting randomly. He sees the sheriff and it brings out that anger all over again. Is it attempted murder? Is it attempted manslaughter? It's hard to say."

Capozzi says any prior issues with Erickson could be used as evidence of premeditation by Congdon, which would solidify an already strong case.

Congdon faces 64 years to life in prison if he's convicted on all counts -- including charges for shooting at a civilian who was riding with Erickson, and for shooting a horse on his Tollhouse property.

Capozzi says mental health may be the only defense.

"The first thing I would do if I was his attorney is have him examined to see whether there are any psychological problems or psychiatric problems," Capozzi said. "Is he in his right mind? Is he hallucinating?"

Congdon's bail is set at more than $2.4 million, but he'll try to convince a judge to reduce it during his next court appearance on Friday.
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