Fresno ambush: 3 officers injured in shooting; suspect killed

The Fresno BeeNovember 5, 2013 

Three law-enforcement officers were shot and injured Tuesday by a man who emerged from a pile of clothing in the garage of a southeast Fresno apartment and opened fire.

The officers -- a parole agent, a U.S. marshal and a Fresno County sheriff's detective -- were taken to Community Regional Medical Center with minor injuries.

The armed suspect was shot and killed in an exchange of gunfire.

The parole agent, identified as Nate Castro, was shot in the chest, but he escaped serious injury because he was wearing his bulletproof vest.

Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer said the vest saved Castro's life.

The U.S. marshal, who was not identified, was struck in the side by a shot that passed through. The detective, identified as Robert McEwen, was struck in the face by shrapnel.

By Tuesday night, the injured officers were released from the hospital.

The officers were part of a multiagency law-enforcement task force that was trying to arrest Jerry Vue, 27, of Fresno. He was being sought for his part in a woman's kidnapping in 2012. His brother, Kou Vue, 22, was arrested last July in the case and is in Fresno County Jail awaiting trial.

Nine members of the task force converged on the apartment at 5226 E. Liberty Ave. about 1 p.m. Tuesday, surveying the area before attempting to enter the apartment, authorities said. About 2:30 p.m., officers went inside, Dyer said. Before entering, a woman and some children came outside and told law enforcement that Jerry Vue was not inside.

As several officers entered the garage, the armed suspect sprang out of the clothes pile and fired at officers before running outside and continuing to shoot from the driveway, where he was fatally shot by officers, Dyer said.

One other man was detained for questioning, he said. Fresno police are overseeing the investigation of the incident.

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said the name of the dead man was being withheld pending identification by the Coroner's Office.

Residents in the area said they heard a flurry of gunfire. One woman said she saw a law enforcement officer on the ground.

"This is really scary, it really is," said Warren Lee, who lives in an apartment complex nearby.

About a month ago, he said someone was shot and killed in the parking lot where he lives. "This is absurd. What the heck is happening with our world?"

Sunnyside High School and Ayer and Greenberg elementary schools, all near the shooting site, were locked down at 2:30 p.m., Fresno Unified School District spokeswoman Susan Bedi said.

The lockdown was lifted at 3 p.m., according to police.

Sunnyside High 11th-graders Ariel Goss, 15, and Rayanne Tinsley, 15, said there was confusion after shots were fired.

They were at Sunnyside Park when police told them to leave the area.

"Cops started showing up and they gathered within that entire area near the schools," Ariel said. "They didn't tell us what to do. They were blocking off every direction. It was kind of frustrating."

"It was scary because the helicopters were hovering right above us," Rayanne said.

Police said the incident tied up traffic around Kings Canyon Boulevard and Peach Avenue.

Interest in Vue intensified after he was featured over the weekend on a Fresno County Sheriff's Office Crime Stoppers television program.

He was a former employee at the Central California Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals but left his job over a year ago, friends and co-workers said. He was a strong advocate for the animals, they said.

Vue was charged in July 2011 with four felony counts, including corporal injury to a spouse, criminal threats and possession of a deadly weapon. He went through a 53-week batterer's program, but then failed to show up for court in July 2012.

In June 2012, Fresno County sheriff's deputies identified Vue and his brother, Kou Vue as suspects in a kidnapping.

The woman was taken to Jerry Vue's house, west of Fresno. The woman told deputies she was held in a closet, pistol-whipped, beaten and sexually assaulted.

His lawyer, Brian Andritch, confirmed Tuesday that Vue was wanted for the kidnapping.

At the time, deputies described both men as armed and dangerous.

"The original case he was wanted for included a lot of violence," Mims said. "The task force knows that, they approached with caution, they train together, they work together. We are very fortunate to have a task force of this caliber."

Heather Garvey, a former coworker at the SPCA, said Vue had two children and frequently talked about how much he loved them.

"He was a good man, he was very kind and he loved the animals," she said. "I really liked Jerry and I can't imagine him doing those things."

She said he worked for the SPCA four or five years. But he seemed to change around the time of the kidnapping, telling his boss he had some issues to work out, Garvey said.

"I try to remember the guy who would call me about saving this dog or that dog and that kitten or that cat," she said. "He always just seemed like a happy guy to me."

Bill Ramey, who trained Vue to become an animal control officer, said his friend was involved in a bitter divorce with his wife when he called one day last year and never returned to work.

Shortly afterward, he recalls, a law enforcement officer came to the SPCA and asked questions about Vue.

Up until that point, he said, Vue was a dependable, hard-working employee.

"He was a hard, hard worker, very energetic and very funny," Ramey said. "He was always helping everybody."

The officer's appearance at the SPCA surprised Vue's fellow workers, he said.

"We just thought that couldn't be Jerry," Ramey said.

Staff writers BoNhia Lee, Hannah Furfaro and Pablo Lopez contributed to this report. The reporters can be reached at (559) 441-6330, mbenjamin@fresnobee.com, cgeorge@fresnobee.com or @beebenjamin or @carmengeorge on Twitter.

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