Crime

Police say man with ax was advancing on officers when shot

Deputy chief describes fatal police shooting of suspect with ax

Deputy Chief Pat Farmer on Wednesday described the fatal police shooting of a suspect armed with an ax that occurred Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019.
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Deputy Chief Pat Farmer on Wednesday described the fatal police shooting of a suspect armed with an ax that occurred Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019.

A Fresno SWAT team member fired four shots from his rifle to fell a man armed with an ax who was advancing on another officer during a fatal officer-involved shooting in northwest Fresno, Acting Chief Pat Farmer said Wednesday.

Farmer, who is in charge of the department while Chief Jerry Dyer recovers from back surgery, provided additional details on Saturday’s fatal shooting during a regular monthly session with the media. Farmer also disclosed that there was no body-camera video of the shooting, because SWAT officers do not wear body cameras “for tactical reasons.”

Oliver Hernandez, 29, died after the hours-long incident near Fresno State that began when family members called police to report that he was high on drugs, armed with an ax and a stun gun, and that the family members feared for their safety. Police, family members and crisis negotiators reportedly spent six hours attempting to convince Hernandez to surrender peacefully.

Farmer said the fatal shooting took place after SWAT officers threw a loud stun grenade in a bedroom where Hernandez was holding out. The blast knocked Hernandez off the bed, and an officer who entered saw him sitting on the bed, still holding the ax shoulder high.

Farmer said he ignored “numerous commands” to drop the weapon, and the officer filed a volley of three less-lethal rubber projectiles at him to no apparent effect when they hit Hernandez in the torso. The officer fired another volley of three, also without effect, and was reloading when Hernandez stood up and advanced on the officer. That is when a second officer fired the rifle.

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FRESNO POLICE DEPARTMENT

Officers tried CPR on Hernandez and he was taken to Community Regional Medical Center, where he died several hours later.

Farmer said officers with a warrant searched Hernandez’s room and found a Taser or stun gun, plastic striking knuckles, similar to brass knuckles, and a small bag of methamphetamines. Farmer said negotiators who earlier spoke with Hernandez reported that he was activating the stun weapon while he spoke.

Farmer said police in Fresno and other cities have had several previous contacts with Hernandez. In 2016, police were called to John Muir School, near North Palm and East Dennett avenues, after Hernandez went to the school in an effort to remove a nephew. The student’s teacher did not know who he was and stepped in to stop him. The teacher was struck with a metal bar several times during the incident, and Hernandez was sent to prison after he was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, Farmer said.

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