Update: A family member reported the identity of the minivan driver shot by the carjacker as Henry Spurling. He is in critical condition at Community Regional Medical Center. Additionally, police Friday afternoon identified the shooter who died as Joshua Lewis, 21, of Fresno.
A wild and terrifying carjacking and shooting spree in northwest Fresno Thursday night left two people dead, two wounded and an off-duty correctional officer who intervened being hailed as a hero.
The suspect, described only as a Hispanic male with a shaved head, was among the dead. He was found in a rural area more than five miles away, having collapsed after crashing the last vehicle he stole, police Chief Jerry Dyer said. The suspect apparently died of wounds from shots fired by the off-duty correctional officer.
But for the correctional officer's actions, Dyer said, the crime spree could have been far worse.
"The best decision that was made tonight was by the off-duty correctional officer, who engaged the suspect and had the courage to engage and was fortunately armed and ended up shooting and taking the suspect's life," Dyer said. "Had the correctional officer not engaged the suspect there could have been additional victims tonight. Fortunately for his courageous efforts, that suspect was no longer able to victimize people in the community."
Dyer said the incident began with a two-car crash at Marks and Emerson avenues in central Fresno about 5:45 p.m. The chief described how events unfolded:
The suspect was driving one of the cars that crashed. He got out of the car, leaving behind two passengers, and then hopped in the passenger seat of a passing car driven by a woman and carjacked her.
He made her drive to a liquor store at Polk and Shaw avenues, and told her to wait while he went inside.
The woman drove off and called 911.
When the man came out of the liquor store and saw the woman was gone, he attempted to carjack a minivan. He shot the driver, a man, who sped away, drove onto Highway 99 and called 911. Police later said the man was in critical condition at a local hospital.
The suspect then tried to carjack a pickup driving east. He shot and killed the man driving the truck, then shot the man's wife. The truck driver was later identified by the Fresno County coroner as Nhia Lee, 65.
The suspect didn't take that pickup, but moved across the street to a vehicle that was stopped. He approached that car and shot out the driver's side window. That person drove away.
The suspect then shot at the hood of a passing SUV. The driver stopped, and the suspect then shot out the driver's side window.
The driver got out and grabbed his 5-year-old brother and ran.
As the suspect got into the SUV, the off-duty correctional officer saw the shooting and approached the SUV, drew his weapon and began shooting at the suspect.
The suspect drove away, headed west down Shaw Avenue beyond the Fresno city limits. More than five miles away -- nearly to Biola -- the suspect crashed the vehicle into a ditch at Shaw and Jameson avenues, where he got out of the car and attempted to walk away before he collapsed and died.
None of the shooting victims were identified Thursday night. Lt. Jon Papaleo said the wife of the pickup driver was in fair condition at an area hospital.
Police are still investigating what triggered the spree.
There were no details about who the suspect's passengers were in the car he initially crashed, or what caused that crash. Police are also trying to determine whether the suspect was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Bee staff writer Carmen George contributed to this report. The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6679 or email@example.com.