Concern began to ripple through many close-knit Valley communities as two Fresno County correctional officers remained in critical condition Sunday, a day after being shot by an ex-convict inside the downtown Fresno jail lobby.
Officer Toamalama Scanlan, 40, was in critical condition, while Juanita Davila, 51, was in critical but stable condition, said Fresno County sheriff’s spokesman Tony Botti. They were each shot once during Saturday’s confrontation with Thong Vang, 37, who quickly gave himself up and was arrested.
Scanlan and Davila family members continue to ask for their privacy and have not designated any sort of spokesperson, Botti said. But glimpses of two people well-rooted in the Valley began to emerge.
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Scanlan’s route here is intriguing. He grew up in American Samoa and was recruited to play football at Iowa Wesleyan, where he spent two years. But on a trip to visit friends in the Bay Area, he met a girl and fell in love. Tepatasi Manuleleua went to UC Davis, and the couple soon determined that Scanlan needed to play football somewhere on the West Coast.
He wound up as a walk-on (non-scholarship) player at Fresno State, earned respect from players and teammates during his 1995 redshirt season and played as a scholarship defensive end for the Bulldogs and the late coach Jim Sweeney as a senior in 1996.
Fresno State tweeted out a message of prayer for Scanlan during the Bulldogs’ game at Nebraska on Saturday evening.
“Toa” and Tepatasi married after the Fresno State 1995 spring game and settled in the Fresno area. Toa earned a criminology degree from Fresno State in 1998. They have six children including young Toa Scanlan, a junior nose guard on the Buchanan High School football team. A vigil was planned Sunday evening at Buchanan.
Scanlan is a volunteer line coach for the Fresno Christian High School football team. Saturday, Fresno Christian coach Russ Counts posted a letter addressed to the school’s community asking for prayers.
Adam Grant, a bishop at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at Peach and Nees avenues in Clovis, said Scanlan volunteers there. Grant said he has known him for 10 years. “He is an outstanding man, who I’ve asked to work with our young men in our church,” Grant said, calling Scanlan “faithful, always willing to help others and serve.”
Davila, who lives in east Sanger, has a large family, too – two children, three grandchildren and many relatives, Sheriff Margaret Mims said during an emotional news conference Saturday afternoon to discuss the case.
“It is a very emotional issue, because this is a family. We leave our first family and join a second family when we work,” Mims said.
Cleanup at jail
Sunday morning, workers still were cleaning up inside the lobby at the downtown Fresno jail. A few people arrived hoping to visit someone inside, but a deputy shooed them away at the door.
Botti said around 7 p.m. Sunday that the jail had been reopened to visitors. No changes in security are expected at this time, Botti said, but will be looked into for future implementation.
Neither Scanlan nor Davila were armed, standard practice for most of the more than 300 correctional officers who work for Fresno County. Botti said arming correctional officers isn’t something that can be done overnight, since officers are not required to pass an arrest and firearms course like a sheriff’s deputy. COs who pass the test may carry a gun, Botti said.
The two officers were each shot once in the neck and head area by Vang. Mims said he entered the lobby just after 8:30 a.m., saying he was there to visit someone.
Vang tried to go to the front of the line but was told to go to the back. He began to show signs of bizarre behavior by pacing back and forth next to a metal detector at the back of the lobby that leads to a secure area of the jail. That’s when Davila approached him, Mims said.
Vang then pulled out a gun and shot as Davila and Scanlan struggled to get him to sit down, Mims said.
Vang held without bail
The Sheriff’s Office didn’t offer any new information Sunday about Vang and apparently was continuing to try to unravel the mystery behind why he shot the officers.
Vang was being held without bail on charges of attempted murder, possession of a firearm by a felon and bringing drugs into a jail. There were no details available about the latter charge.
Vang’s felony record dates to 1998 from a Mongolian Boys Society sex-slave ring at a local Motel 6. The original case had 16 defendants.
Vang, then 20, pleaded guilty in 2000 to one count of forcible rape. He originally faced six counts of rape in concert with others, six counts of forcible rape and a count of false imprisonment, his lawyer said at the time.
He already had been sentenced to 19 years in prison in September 1998 after he pleaded guilty to similar charges in an earlier phase of the gang-rape investigation into the sex-slave ring that victimized Asian-American girls.
Anyone with information about Vang should call the Sheriff’s Office at 559-600-3111.
How to help
The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said the Fresno Deputy Sheriff’s Association is handling donations intended for Scanlan’s and Davila’s families.
▪ Checks can be made payable to the FDSA (write “Injured officers fund” in the memo field and mailed to: FDSA, 1360 Van Ness Ave., Fresno, CA 93721.
▪ Donations of other items may be brought to FDSA Headquarters. For questions or to arrange a dropoff time, call Eric Schmidt at 559-281-8784.
In addition, a GoFundMe account has been established to assist the two officers and their families: https://www.gofundme.com/injuredofficerfund