Fresno police officers were targeted when gunfire broke out early Sunday morning at a Fresno fairgrounds party attended by gang members, Chief Jerry Dyer said Monday.
“We are very, very fortunate that we didn’t have a police officer killed,” he said.
The officers escaped injury by taking cover behind vehicles when bullets began flying in a fairgrounds parking lot, Dyer said during a news conference called in the wake of the shooting and two related ones later in the day in which dozens of rounds were fired.
The chief said his officers will respond to the violence by putting police pressure on the gang members, who showed “a total disregard and disrespect for law enforcement” in the fairgrounds incident.
One man, identified as Tremayne Beard, 33, was arrested after police say he crashed a car fleeing the fairgrounds.
Officers were at the fairgrounds after police were alerted to a party with gang members in attendance. Dyer said members of the department’s Violent Crime Impact Team were monitoring events when a fight broke out about 1 a.m. after members of a rival gang arrived.
Officers ordered everyone to disperse, but gunfire erupted near the parking lot at Chance and Lane avenues. Officer Mikal Clement took cover behind a car that was hit by three bullets. Another car stopped several bullets headed toward officer Sergio Gonzalez, who dived for cover after he saw muzzle flashes.
Police estimated a total of 30 to 40 shots were fired and later recovered about 20 shell casings from three guns.
As the shooting ended, police said the driver of a Mercedes later identified as Beard sped off into a nearby neighborhood at speeds of nearly 100 mph before he crashed into a parked car.
Sgt. Justin Hoagland reported seeing Beard jump out of the heavily damaged Mercedes and run into a nearby neighborhood with a gun in his hand. Beard was later arrested after a police search. A handgun stolen out of Georgia was recovered along his escape route, Dyer said.
The chief described Beard as a “well-known gang member” and noted he was booked into jail on a $200,000 bond, but was quickly back on the street; the easy availability of bail to armed felons is an issue Dyer has said he wants to change. Charges against Beard include shooting at a vehicle, being a felon in possession of a firearm and felony evading.
Police say the fairgrounds violence prompted two more incidents, the first at 8:10 a.m. near Jensen and Walnut avenues in west Fresno, where one person was shot in the leg and foot and officers later recovered 32 shell casings fired from two separate guns.
About 25 minutes later, a man was in a car at Highway 41 and Tulare Street when a driver of a second vehicle rolled up and began firing a handgun, striking the driver of the first car in the ear. The victim was able to speed away with the gunman in pursuit for “a significant amount of time,” according to Dyer, before he crashed. He added the victim was fortunate not to have been killed.
That shooting prompted police to ask the California Highway Patrol to shut down part of the freeway for about an hour during the investigation.
Dyer, in speaking about the close calls his officers faced in the fairgrounds shooting, said “it is a rarity, but it is a reality” that police can be targeted by gun-wielding gang members.
“The officers were clearly visible,” he added.