Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer said his officers showed tremendous restraint Wednesday in a predawn confrontation with an armed man who fired a hundred rounds before he was shot to death by police as he approached them with an SKS assault rifle.
The chief described a heavily armed man with a kill-or-be-killed mindset, who left his officers no choice.
“This is not one of those situations that anyone is going to be able to deescalate,” Dyer said. “This individual either had a death wish, or he had a desire to kill people, or both.”
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The man, identified as Salvadro Alfredo Pablo Lopez, 21, was shot to death about 4:40 a.m. by two officers in the 300 block of West Dakota Avenue.
Dyer said Lopez was a Bond Street Bulldog gang member with a prior felony conviction. Lopez was mortally wounded by the officers after he advanced from a backyard shed toward officers after a 70-minute standoff.
Officers were called to the area about 3:30 a.m. after the gunfire started. Dyer said neighbors reported Lopez said “it’s time to end it all.” It was also reported by relatives that Lopez wanted “to go join” his deceased grandmother.
Police received about 20 911 calls from neighbors reporting heavy gunfire. One call was from the house in front of where Lopez was firing the rifle, a handgun and a shotgun. Inside the home were four adults and six children.
“Help me please!” said the woman caller. “They are shooting and coming to kill us.” Dyer said officers went into the home as the firing continued and escorted the occupants to safety.
When police arrived, they learned that Lopez was in the backyard or near a shed and had fired dozens of rounds. After taking the occupants to safety, police occupied the home and called for a SWAT team. Before the unit could go into action, Lopez began moving toward the street. Officers blocked his path and the gunbattle broke out about 4:40 a.m. The rifle and a handgun were found near Lopez after he was shot by an officer with a rifle who fired eight rounds, and a second, who fired his handgun four times.
Before the final confrontation, Investigators reported Lopez fired multiple rounds toward the street and in the direction of officers while he was inside the shed. The side of the house is marked with bullet strikes, as is a vehicle in a carport and a swamp cooler. Also found in the shed: a shotgun and more ammunition.
During the afternoon news conference, Dyer provided photography and video evidence of the standoff as evidence of the intensity of the gunfire.
Dyer said Lopez was “intent on firing as many rounds as he could.”
Carol Lowell, who lives on a street behind the house where the shots were fired, said the rounds woke her up. “It sounded like somebody banging on a trash can,” she said.
After looking out a window and realizing what was happening, she went back to her bedroom and laid on the floor. Police came to her front door about 4 a.m. to tell her there had been a shooting and asking if she was OK.
“It was a very scary morning,” Lowell said.
The Fresno County District Attorney’s office is also involved in an investigation of the officer-involved shooting. Said Dyer of that inquiry:
“I can stand here before you today and say every indication we have is that (the fatal shooting) was justified for our officers. They’re very fortunate that they were not killed today.”