Crime

Armed standoff ends in arrest after tense day. Fresno County deputy shot, has surgery

A Fresno County sheriff’s deputy was wounded Tuesday during a gunfight in the rural Sierra foothills of Fresno County.

The injured deputy, John Erickson, 49, was on his way into surgery at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno on Tuesday afternoon, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said during a news conference outside the hospital.

The alleged gunman was taken into custody following an armed standoff that lasted for several hours. He walked out of a home that was surrounded by law enforcement and surrendered.

The suspect’s name hadn’t been released because law enforcement wants “authentic identification from witnesses” first, said Tony Botti, sheriff’s office spokesman.

Erickson was talking, never lost consciousness, and is expected to survive.

The shooting happened just after 11 a.m. in the 29000 block of Quail Springs Lane, south of Tollhouse in the Sierra foothills. Deputies were responding to a call regarding a property dispute. Mims said the gunman began to fire at arriving deputies.

Ride-along with deputy

Erickson was able to return fire to defend himself and a civilian who was riding along with the deputy. The civilian, identified by Mims only as a male acquaintance of Erickson’s who sometimes accompanies him, was not injured.

During the standoff the sheriff’s office was in phone contact with the suspect inside the home, and a family member was cooperating with law enforcement by providing information, Mims said.

Mims said the gunman shifted his gunfire from another individual at the scene toward deputies once Erickson arrived.

Save his boots

Erickson was flown to the hospital via a California Highway Patrol helicopter. Mims said he was telling emergency responders, “Don’t cut off my new boots.”

“He knew he was in good hands,” Mims said, “and wanted to save his brand-new boots.”

Erickson’s wife and two children were able to visit him at the hospital.

Erickson fell against his patrol car after he was shot, and a handful of deputies carried him hundreds of yards “under horrible, awful terrain” with a broken femur to get him to a location where a helicopter could land, Mims said. Erickson was on scene for almost an hour before he was evacuated.

Erickson has worked for the sheriff’s office for the past 11 years. He previously worked for the Kerman Police Department.

The shooting sparked an intense law-enforcement response to the area, a rural hillside location with brush and oak trees. Dozens of law enforcement officials had congregated around a staging area at nearby Sierra Elementary School, including a SWAT team with armored vehicles.

Past calls to property

Mims said deputies have been called to the property before for a property line dispute, but it had never escalated into violence before Tuesday.

The arrested suspect likely faces attempted murder charges.

Mims said the other person involved in the property dispute has been cooperative.

Patrolling the foothills can be dangerous work.

Deputies were involved in another gunfight in rural Fresno County in November in Squaw Valley (south of Tuesday’s shooting), where a man was wounded during an overnight standoff.

In 2001, sheriff’s deputy Erik Telen was shot and killed in the line of duty in Dunlap, just east of Squaw Valley.

At least 12 law enforcement officials with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office have been killed in the line of duty since the early 1900s, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

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