Two homicides Wednesday brought this year’s murder total in the city of Fresno to 37, just two off the annual totals from each of the previous two years.
Police Chief Jerry Dyer said Thursday that neither of Wednesday’s murders looks to be connected to gang rivalries. And Dyer repeated that his department’s focus will remain on stopping retaliatory violence, which the chief believes is the driving force behind the spike in homicides this year.
The 37 murders compare to the annual total of 39 in 2016 and 2015, and concern over the increased violence Friday prompted southwest Fresno civic leaders and Dyer to call for gang leaders to put down their guns.
In Wednesday’s violence, two men were shot and killed within 90 minutes. The first shooting occurred about 4:30 p.m. in the 2200 block of East Tyler Avenue, near Blackstone and Olive avenues. The victim was identified by police as a man in his 40s who lived in the neighborhood.
The second slaying took place about 6 p.m., after multiple shots were fired in an apartment at 329 E. Jensen Ave., near Walnut Avenue. The victim, believed to be in his late 30s, died at Community Regional Medical Center. Police described the suspect as an African-American man wearing a black mask, red shirt and blue basketball shorts. He was last seen scaling a wall behind the apartments.
The murders follow the fatal shooting of field worker Juan Cruz early Monday at Glenn and Harvard avenues in central Fresno, a fatal stabbing Sunday at a Fresno group home in central Fresno and a drive-by shooting Saturday near east-central Fresno that is in a county island surrounded by the city. Neither the Glenn and Harvard case nor the group home case is believed to be gang-related. The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the drive-by shooting.
Dyer said he is confident that department detectives will solve both of Wednesday’s homicides, but he said the nature of the slayings made them more difficult to prevent, in comparison to the retaliatory violence he said has driven up homicide numbers this year.
Dyer said when detectives believe gang violence is the cause of a murder, officers can focus on rivals who would retaliate. At least 20 of the slayings this year involve gang rivalries, he said.
“They remember their enemies,” Dyer said of gang members and ongoing feuds.