Two Tulare County law officers shot and critically wounded a man who allegedly backed up into a Woodlake police car that was pursuing him Wednesday afternoon, Woodlake Police Chief Mike Marquez said.
Marquez said Tulare County sheriff’s deputies working another case about 3 p.m. saw a suspicious Dodge minivan in Woodlake. The deputies ran the plates and saw it was stolen in Porterville. The sheriff’s office reported it to Woodlake police.
A Woodlake officer in a Woodlake police car and an Exeter police officer with him responded. When they got there, a man in his early 20s got into the minivan and drove away. The two officers tried to apprehend the suspect before he got into the minivan but failed, Marquez said.
The two officers followed him, as did the sheriff’s vehicle.
The minivan turned onto Sequoia Street and headed east, then suddenly stopped. The two law enforcement cars surrounded the minvan and officers got out with guns drawn, Marquez said.
The driver backed up his vehicle in the direction of two officers, who were not hurt. The minivan continued to back up and struck the Woodlake police car.
The Woodlake and Exeter officers then opened fire and hit the driver, he said.
“The officers feared for their safety and lives,” Marquez said.
The officers who opened fire each have about four years experience and will be placed on administrative leave, he said.
The suspect was taken to Kaweah Delta Medical Center and was in critical condition, police said. His name was not released.
Woodlake High, two preschools and a continuation high school are on either side of Sequoia Street and were placed on lockdown.
Woodlake resident Leonard Hernandez said his wife Maria, a preschool teacher at Lulu Blair Kress preschool, heard eight to 10 shots fired around 3 p.m. on West Sequoia Street.
Although the incident happened in Woodlake, other law enforcement agencies were assisting, including the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office and Visalia police.
Visalia police are investigating the shooting at the request of Woodlake police.
Woodlake police said Thursday afternoon there was no additional information being released about the case.