Science tied together Fresno County shootings

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Over a span of a few weeks in November and December 2017, someone terrorized busy roadways in Fresno and Madera counties by driving around a black pickup truck and opening fire on passing traffic.

As investigators swarmed the area on the ground and in the air, Fresno County Sheriff's Office criminalist Robert Benavides started connecting the pieces in the lab.

"The bullet fragment had no marks of value so there was nothing for me to identify or to say much about that. The bullet, however, did have rifling on it which I would be able to view under a microscope to compare it to another item."

One after the other, detectives collected .38 caliber bullets from the shootings and Benavides checked for striations to see if they matched.

"After comparison, examination of it, I was able to determine the two bullets were fired from the same gun."

By January 2018, Benavides says test firing proved the shooter used the same gun in all five shootings.

And when a run-in with an off-duty correctional officer put 42-year-old Jorge Gracia on detectives' radar, they asked Benavides to conduct one more test, on his Bryco gun and its .38 caliber ammunition.

"After comparing the test fires to each of those, I determined those bullets were fired by the Bryco firearm."

Gracia is now charged with five counts of assault with a semiautomatic firearm for the shootings, plus drugs and weapons charges for the incident with the correctional officer in Kerman.

He was also convicted of rape in 1997 and attempted rape in 1999.

If he's convicted on these latest charges, he'd face life in prison.
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