Five children who witnessed a violent jailhouse shooting in September were treated Wednesday to a shopping spree at a Clovis toy store.
More than a dozen people, mostly Fresno County correctional officers, met at the Toys R Us store to greet the children at 7 a.m. For one hour, the kids, all members of the Carillo family, had the store to themselves, and they didn’t wait a moment to fill their shopping carts.
Among the grownups enjoying the kids’ joy and who personally gave each a $150 gift card was Juanita Davila, one of the correctional officers shot in the Sept. 3 incident. The other officer, Toamalama Scanlan, is still recovering. Suspect Thong Vang, 37, has been charged with attempted murder.
The children were with family members in the jail lobby when the gunfire broke out.
“The whole store here, for one hour, is going to be just for you,” Davila told the siblings as she leaned over to speak to them.
In minutes, Jayda Carrillo, 5, had already thrown a couple dolls and teddy bears and even a dollhouse into her shopping cart, which was being wheeled around the tight aisles by correctional officer Adrian Garcia.
At one point, Jayda was picked up by another correctional officer to pick out a doll from a high shelf.
Before the shopping spree began, the children were introduced to new bicycles, each with their name on it. Helmets, blankets and backpacks with supplies were waiting for them with festive red, white and green balloons towering over them.
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, who had been visibly emotional at times throughout the shopping spree, said the gesture was a way to heal from September’s incident and also bring joy to the children.
“The last time these children saw (Davila), she had been shot,” Mims said.
Mims added that Wednesday’s reunion at the toy store was the first time many of the officers and Davila had been together in one place since Sept. 3.
The shopping spree was put together through the donation of the money by the Fresno County Public Safety Association and the Fresno Sheriff’s Correctional Sergeant Association. Toys R Us cards were purchased from the $750 that was raised. But a purchase discount was also added by the store Wednesday to allow the money to go a little further.
Mims said the initial idea had been to deliver blankets for the children, but that blossomed into a shopping spree after officers heard about the kids’ rough experience.
Rachel Gaines of Fresno is the mother of the children and said she had never been able to do this kind of shopping trip for her kids.
“We’ll go shopping. We’ll get one or two things, but something like this where they can just go and fill up their baskets and not think about a price,” Gaines said holding back tears, “it’s so awesome to see their faces.”
Gaines said that since the Sept. 3 shooting, her kids have had many questions about what they witnessed. She said the only thing she could tell them was to pray for the injured officers, and they did.
“We would talk about it a lot and they would have questions that were even hard for me as an adult to answer,” Gaines said.
Mims said the shopping spree was gratifying and she hoped that Wednesday’s memory would overpower the memory of Sept. 3.
She added that while the kids were having fun, it was much more emotional for her and her officers.
“Believe me, we are getting a lot more out of this than we’re giving,” Mims said.
As they ran around with an officer by their side across all the aisles, the kids were greeted by store mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe and characters from “Star Wars.” They each received a Santa Claus hat from a store employee.
Joseph, 7, the oldest of the five, said he picked out his favorite toy: Foxy, a character from the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” video game.
He said his four sisters, whose carts were filled with dolls and playhouse stuff, were as happy as he was.
“I have toys in my car today,” he said quietly. “It feels happy.”