Fresno police arrested two men on warrants and seized two guns after an all-night sweep of a southwest Fresno neighborhood where a suspected gang member opened fire on two officers, Chief Jerry Dyer said Wednesday.
Dyer said it is not yet clear whether the men or the guns are directly connected to the shooting incident that erupted Tuesday afternoon at Jensen and Walnut avenues.
“We have a lot of work to do, but we have some good leads,” Dyer said. The chief said his officers would continue to put pressure on “empowered” west Fresno gang members who are suspected of firing on police on two occasions in a week. It followed an incident early Sunday, when two officers were forced to dive for cover behind cars when bullets were fired their way at the Fresno fairgrounds. One man, identified as southwest Fresno gang member Tremayne Beard, 33, was arrested following that incident when he crashed his car after a 100 mph pursuit through a nearby neighborhood.
Tuesday’s incident occurred just before 4 p.m. when two detectives in civilian clothes from the department’s gun crime unit, identified as Henry Garcia and Kham Xiong, were driving east on Jensen Avenue approaching Walnut Avenue. One of the officers slowed their unmarked Ford Taurus to look at two men walking on the north side of Jensen. Police say one of the men pulled out a handgun and fired at the car, a bullet blowing out a back window on the Taurus. Neither officer was hurt.
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The officers sped from the area and called for backup. Dozens of officers, including the department’s SWAT team, turned out for the search for the gunman. Four warrants were served in the neighborhood.
While it is not certain the gunman in Tuesday’s incident knew that he was targeting police officers, gang members often come in contact with department detectives, especially those from the department’s gun crime unit tasked with taking firearms out of the hands of dangerous criminals. Police say hundreds of weapons have been seized this year.
Dyer said west Fresno gangs have repeatedly shown a readiness to shoot at their rivals and show a “total disregard for citizens and law enforcement.”
The Jensen and Walnut neighborhood where the officers were targeted Tuesday has a lengthy history of violence, often gun-related. It is known to police as a longtime stronghold of the so-called Muhammad family street gang. Dyer said while some family members may move out of the area, they often return and rival gang members are known to go there to settle scores.
The gang drew widespread attention after the Dec. 17, 2000, beating death of Alejandro Escareno, 69, who was attacked and robbed as he walked to a bus stop near his home in southwest Fresno. Raheem Muhammad, 20, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in the case and Odell Muhammad, 19, was convicted of second-degree murder.
SWAT teams swarmed the neighborhood in October 2005, recovering crack cocaine and firearms from homes on Garrett Avenue one block north of the Jensen-Walnut intersection.
In a 2008 drive-by shooting, a gunman fired into a crowd at a triplex near Jensen and Walnut and two innocent bystanders, Dante Smith, 17, and Deshawn Roland, 15, were hit by gunfire. Roland was shot in the face and a bullet broke his jaw. Smith, a Washington Union High School football player, was hit seven times in the legs, ending his football career. The conviction of the man identified as the gunman, James Edward Hicks, was overturned and he is awaiting a new trial.
In July 2013, police arrested five gang members and seized stolen handguns after officers spotted three men they believed were selling weapons at the intersection.
In April, two men were wounded in an apparent gunfight in front of the Jensen Walnut Market.