When Veronica Nelson got the call that her 19-year-old son had been shot by Fresno police, she was actually relieved.
She was staying in Pismo Beach and taking care of her mother-in-law who has stage 4 cancer. When she heard the news, she scrambled to pack a bag of clothes because she thought she’d be spending nights in the hospital with her son. On the 2 1/2 -hour drive home, she imagined scenarios: He might have to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life or lose an arm or leg from the gunshot wounds.
“I was happy that it was a police officer instead of someone out on the streets trying to kill my kid or something,” Nelson said. “I thought, ‘thank God it was a police officer because police don’t shoot to kill.’ ”
But on June 25, Dylan Noble was shot and killed by two Fresno police officers. A witness’s video shows Noble lying on the ground beside his pickup after being shot four times.
Police say Noble ignored officers’ demands to surrender and feared he had a gun – but he was unarmed. Noble was pulled over after officers saw him speed down Sunnyside Avenue, squealing his tires. His parents are now calling for an outside investigation into the shooting and demanding justice for Noble.
Noble, a 2014 graduate of Clovis High School, has been described as outgoing, loving and a defender of the underdog. He wore cowboy hats and liked dirt bikes and motorcycles. His truck had a bumper sticker quoting Davy Crockett, and his arm had a tattoo of Johnny Cash’s face.
There’s no way in a million years did I think that the Fresno PD would’ve executed him.
Dylan’s father, Darren Noble
Despite recent reports of police shooting unarmed men across the country, Noble’s father, Darren Noble, did not expect the worst when he first heard his son had been shot by police.
A mother of Dylan Noble’s friend was hysterical when she called Darren Noble, standing just minutes away from where his son had just been shot.
“She said, ‘Dylan’s been shot by the cops.’ And I was like, ‘By what?’ I thought that if he acted up or did something out of line, at most they’d hit him with the Tasers or something,” Darren Noble said. “There’s no way in a million years did I think that the Fresno PD would’ve executed him. For no good reason – for peeling out.”
Noble’s parents spoke out for the first time publicly on Thursday at a news conference held outside the Baradat and Paboojian law firm in northwest Fresno. Attorneys blocked a Fresno Bee reporter’s questions pertaining to the case and what happened that afternoon but allowed the family to speak about Dylan Noble.
He had turned down his mom’s invitation to Pismo Beach the weekend that he died. He didn’t want to miss out on work. He helped install roofs for Fresno roofing and insulation company Universal Coatings. Spending the day outside on a rooftop in Fresno’s heat may not sound ideal, but he didn’t mind.
“That’s one of the most thankless jobs you can have, and he still smiled,” Darren Noble said. “But he wanted to go to school. He didn’t want to break his back all his life.”
Dylan Noble wanted to be a youth counselor, after spending time mentoring elementary students in high school. “If he saw somebody being bullied, he would be like, ‘Hey bro, what’s your problem?’ ” Nelson said. “He was always the peacemaker. He wanted everyone just to be happy.”
There’s still good cops out there.
Dylan’s mother, Veronica Nelson
Nelson, who was 17 when Dylan was born, said being a young single mom created a special bond with her son. Darren Noble was involved in their son’s life, but he and Nelson have been separated for several years.
“It’s that survival mode, I guess,” she said. “As a single mom, having him in day cares and taking him to work with me – we just had this closeness. Our bond was like no other.”
Lillian Noble, Dylan’s grandmother, is not ashamed to say that he was her favorite grandchild. Everybody knew it. On his senior prom night, Dylan Noble made the limo full of his friends drive to his grandma’s house after dinner to take pictures with her.
“He never left the house without saying, ‘I love you,’ ” Lillian Noble said.
At the law firm on Thursday, Nelson thought about her other children, Dylan’s two younger brothers. One of them dressed as a police officer for Halloween.
“There’s still good cops out there,” she said through tears. Shootings by police, she said, seem more common today than in her youth. “If you did something wrong, you messed up, you went to jail. That’s all that happened.”