Zackary Randalls was on his first ride-along Tuesday as a newly hired Pacific Gas & Electric Co. employee, riding in the passenger seat of a company truck.
That assignment came to a sudden and violent end: Randalls, 34, who lived in Clovis, was struck by bullets when gunman Kori Ali Muhammad allegedly fired a gun into the utility truck from the passenger side on Van Ness Avenue. Randalls later died at Community Regional Medical Center.
Friends say Randalls, who graduated from Lemoore High in 2001, was excited about his new job in the call center and that Tuesday was his first day out of the classroom.
He and his wife of eight years, Katie, a Madera Unified School District elementary school teacher, have a preschool-aged son and daughter.
In an interview Wednesday with CNN, Eddie Valencia described himself as one of Randalls “best friends” and talked about how devastating Randalls’ death is for his family and friends. Valencia said that when he first learned Randalls was one of the victims, he immediately went to Katie Randalls’ workplace to support her.
Choking back emotion and wiping off the tears rolling down his face, Valencia described Randalls as “more than a friend to me. He definitely was a brother, just like he was to a lot of other people. He loved those two kids with everything he had.”
Randalls would not want his murder or that of the other men shot and killed to be used as a spark for further violence, Valencia said.
“He wouldn’t want this to turn into any type of hateful reaction from anybody in the public,” Valencia said. “He would want the focus to be on the love we have for him … to use this as an opportunity to heal and come together, not use this as ignition for any other hateful acts.”
Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer broke down momentarily during a Tuesday night press conference after mentioning his meeting with Katie Randalls.
Nick Stavropoulos, president of PG&E, said he was devastated that the utility company had lost a employee.
Friends say Randalls was someone who could sway another’s beliefs in others because of his nonjudgmental attitude.
Randalls was targeted by Muhammad because he was white, said Dyer.
“From what I’ve heard, this was racially motivated,” said Joey Contente, a friend of Randalls’ since Little League who recently moved to Oklahoma. “That makes it even sadder because Zack was truly a person who never saw color in anybody.”
Contente said Randalls also was charitable, a person who would look in his neighbor’s bowl not to see if they had more, “but if they had enough.”
“He was truly the best person I’ve ever known,” Contente said.
He could always make you feel like you were his best friend, I bet at his funeral he will have 25 best friends.
Steve Spurrier, owner of SS Motorsports in Fresno
If he spoke with friends about the shooting that killed him, Contente said, he wouldn’t have judged Muhammad.
“Zack would be the first person to ask why we are judging him for his beliefs,” Contente said. “He would say he (Muhammad) obviously had a mental issue, that his beliefs didn’t cause this.”
Marking his anniversaries
Another friend, Jonathan Gilbert, described Randalls as “an amazing man.”
One thing his friends noticed about him was his tattoos. He got a new tattoo each year on his anniversary with his wife.
“On their seventh anniversary he got a tattoo on the sides on his fingers that said ‘Till my last day,’ ” Gilbert said. “Yesterday was that day and he will be dearly missed by so many.”
Upon leaving SS Motorsports for his new job at PG&E, he sent a heartfelt Facebook entry to his co-workers on March 13. He described the difficulty he would have leaving.
“The hardest part about this was walking out of a shop which I really considered my home because I was with family,” the note said.
He added: “I’ve walked away from plenty of jobs before but this was the hardest by far because I felt like I was really walking away from a family that had adopted me and welcomed me to a new community.”
Randalls’ former boss, Steve Spurrier of SS Motorsports in Fresno, said Randalls worked 18 months for him. He said Randalls had previously worked as a manager at the Vans store in Fashion Fair mall.
Spurrier knew Randalls when they were kids in Lemoore and when Randalls moved to Fresno with his father, they started hanging out together.
No matter how long it was since you saw him, “Zack was one of those friends that you would just pick up where you left off,” Spurrier said.
He offered Randalls a job because Randalls was working too many late hours and not seeing enough of his wife and children.
“I hired him so he could have a normal life with his wife and family,” Spurrier said. “It was hard for him to tell me he got the job with PG&E; he didn’t want to leave me hanging.”
Last year, Spurrier recalled, a minivan rolled over near Shields and Clovis avenues, and Randalls climbed on top of the vehicle to get the children out and waited and talked with their mother until help could arrive.
Spurrier learned about Tuesday’s shootings from a friend who arrived at his shop. He knew Tuesday would be the first day Randalls would be out in the field and he learned that Randalls was the only new employee on a ride-along.
“Of all the people in the world, he was one of the good guys,” Spurrier said. “He had an immaculate background and was never in trouble.”