Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer details the fatal shooting at Catholic church
A divorce turned deadly Sunday morning when a Fresno man waiting at a church parking lot shot and killed his estranged wife and her boyfriend after they emerged from Mass at St. Alphonsus Church in southwest Fresno.
The husband, Manuel Garcia, 64, then drove to the family home 11 blocks away and, as SWAT officers massed outside, took his own life, police said.
The shooting happened in the parking lot of the church on Kearney Boulevard, west of Fresno Street.
Father Dominic Rajappa said morning Mass had just ended and churchgoers were leaving when gunfire broke out in the back parking lot.
Rajappa said he didn’t believe many people saw the shooting, but it left parishioners shaken. “They were really scared,” he said.
Martha Garcia, 61, died at the parking lot. More than an hour later, her body, covered by a blue tarp, was still lying between two cars. The man, age 51, was rushed to Community Regional Medical Center, where he died Sunday night. On Monday, he was identified by authorities as Raul Herrera, 51, of Fresno.
In a mid-day briefing to reporters, Dyer gave this account of the murder-suicide.
Shortly after 8:30 a.m. Fresno police received a call of a shooting in the church parking lot.
Arriving officers found Martha Garcia and Herrera with gunshot wounds to the head.
Shortly after the shooting, Garcia’s daughter called police to report that her father sent her a series of text messages stating he had killed her mother and was going to kill himself.
Officers arrived at the suspect’s home at California Avenue near Arthur Avenue and met with his daughter. Dyer said that officers tried to make contact with the suspect but were unable to reach him. However, Manuel Garcia continued sending text messages to his daughter.
Shortly after their arrival, officers heard a gunshot from inside the home.
Officers then secured the home and sent in a robot to find the man. With the robot’s help, officers found the man on the couch in the living room with a shot to his head and a gun in his hand. The robot removed the gun, and SWAT officers entered and confirmed Garcia was dead.
Dyer said Manuel Garcia and Martha Garcia had been married for 43 years but she had filed for divorce about a month ago. The woman continued living in the family home, Dyer said, and had recently told relatives that she had a boyfriend.
There was no history in police records of domestic violence involving the suspect or victim, the chief said.
Dyer said he could not recall another incident where a church member was shot or killed at the church they attended.