Fresno police were searching for a man said to have fired at several undercover police officers Wednesday morning while they were following his vehicle near Peach and Olive avenues in east-central Fresno.
Police and California Highway Patrol officers closed off three areas near where the high-speed gunbattle took place. As of Wednesday evening, no one was reportedly hit by the gunshots exchanged between the suspect and undercover officers in the two unmarked police cars, which were hit several times.
The officers in pursuit returned fire out of their driver’s-side windows while chasing the suspects, who first opened fire on officers near Lamona Court and Hedges Avenue. The chase turned onto Hedges, then onto Peach.
One of the detectives rammed the suspects’ vehicle near Peach and Olive, causing it to veer onto the curb near an apartment complex. The passenger ran out of the vehicle and was still at large Wednesday evening, but officers arrested the driver without further incident.
“The officer who rammed the car said he did what he had to do,” Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer said. “He knew he could not allow a running gunbattle to continue through the city of Fresno.”
The driver was identified as Miles Ali Banks, 18. A semi-automatic handgun was recovered in Banks’ car, but it is not yet known if he also fired at police during the pursuit.
For the grace of God, we have two officers who were not shot and were able to return fire.
Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer
The passenger was identified Wednesday night as Adell Vaughn, 19, of Fresno. He was described as a heavy-set black man wearing a black shirt, blue jeans, black bandanna and armed with a silver-tipped handgun. Police said he should be considered extremely dangerous and advised the public to not approach him but to call 911 immediately.
Dyer did not know if any other drivers or pedestrians were nearby during the brief gunfight. The apartment complex near Peach and Olive does not appear to have been struck by bullets.
A police helicopter was broadcasting a warning to neighbors: Armed black male is hiding in a neighborhood. Use caution.
Dyer urged anyone in the area to stay in their home and keep their doors locked until the suspect was caught. At least 50 officers were looking for him Wednesday evening.
The Peach and Olive intersection remained closed Wednesday night while police searched for the suspect. Dyer said an internal investigation – which is mandatory for all officer-involved shootings – will begin after the suspect is caught and will keep the area closed for several additional hours.
Undercover officers were in pursuit of a car from which someone fired a shot into the air, Dyer said. The car was previously seen driving erratically on McKinley Avenue and before that on Winery Avenue.
The undercover operation was targeting the driver, who Dyer said fired several shots into an apartment complex at 1545 N. Winery Ave. at 3:45 p.m. Tuesday. No one was hit in that shooting, although several apartments were struck by gunfire. Detectives were tailing him Wednesday morning when his passenger fired the shot into the air. The detectives attempted to stop the vehicle, and the pursuit began.
Dyer said the shootings were gang-related.
Turner Elementary School was on lockdown briefly, but police later lifted it. Parents were gathering with their children on the grounds at 2 p.m.
3The number of shootings in the Peach and Olive area in the last 24 hours
Another shooting was reported in the area late Tuesday morning. About 10 shots were fired, hitting a 26-year-old man in the leg, a black Lexus that took him to the hospital and an apartment building. The man told police he did not know who shot him. It is unknown if this shooting was related to the other two.
Fresno police Lt. Joe Gomez described the location of this week’s shootings as one of the most violent in the city.
In 2012, a Fresno police officer shot and killed Manuel Armenta, 30, in the Peach and Olive intersection.
A woman flagged down an officer and told him that Armenta tried to carjack her. The officer attempted to arrest Armenta, who police said moved toward him with a screwdriver. The officer tried to use a stun gun, but it did not subdue Armenta. He eventually shot Armenta in the chest.
On Wednesday, Dyer said he was thankful no one died again in that same intersection.
“This could have very easily turned out differently,” he said. “For the grace of God, we have two officers who were not shot and were able to return fire.
“We’re very fortunate we didn’t lose two Fresno police officers today.”