Crime

Man accused of shooting Fresno deputy identified. Sheriff’s spokesman describes chaotic scene

Margaret Mims discusses the shooting of a Fresno County Sheriff’s deputy

Sheriff Margaret Mims discusses the shooting of a Fresno County Sheriff's deputy who was hit while responding to a scene in the foothills of eastern Fresno County.
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Sheriff Margaret Mims discusses the shooting of a Fresno County Sheriff's deputy who was hit while responding to a scene in the foothills of eastern Fresno County.

Michael James Congdon, 57, was identified Wednesday as the man who allegedly wounded a Fresno County Sheriff’s deputy Tuesday, setting off an hours-long standoff near Tollhouse in the Sierra foothills.

Congdon was booked into Fresno County Jail on two counts of attempted murder in the shooting of deputy John Erickson, 49, who was shot in the leg after he arrived in the 29000 block of Quail Springs Lane to investigate a dispute between neighbors. A citizen who was in the pickup, as part of a ride-along when Congdon allegedly opened fire, was not injured.

Congdon was also booked on charges of discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling, use of a firearm to commit a felony, and animal cruelty: a horse was also hit by gunfire.

Ambush on dirt lane

Sheriff’s spokesman Tony Botti shared more details Wednesday about the chaotic start of the confrontation:

Two deputies were sent to the address in separate vehicles at about 11 a.m. Tuesday. As soon as Erickson arrived on a dirt lane flanked by thick brush, a man later identified as Congdon began shooting at Erickson’s pickup. Erickson was hit in the leg, shattering his femur. The citizen was able to escape the truck without being hit and the other deputy, who was not identified by officials, helped him to safety and fired at Congdon before dragging Erickson “a considerable distance” to a safe place.

Michael Congdon.jpg
Fresno County Sheriff's Office

Dozens of officers from multiple agencies sped to the location. Erickson was helped into a California Highway Patrol helicopter by other deputies and flown to Community Regional Medical Center where his condition was upgraded to “good” on Wednesday.

“We’re so lucky and grateful that we aren’t planning a funeral,” Botti said Wednesday afternoon.

Botti also said that the horse hit by gunfire before the deputy arrived was “one tough horse,” and it appears the animal will survive.

The sheriff’s office is not releasing the type of weapon involved in the shooting because that is part of the investigation, Botti said. But he added that Congdon had a number of firearms. Investigators did release photos of the deputy’s pickup, which show that it was riddled by gunfire that struck the side of the vehicle.

Botti said it is not uncommon for deputies who patrol the mountains of Fresno County to respond to gunfire incidents. In most cases, those reports turn out to simply be target shooting, which is usually legal when the shooter is on their own property.

As for the person who was riding with Erickson and became involved in the potentially deadly incident, Botti said that he is doing well. While it’s always possible that a ride-along could turn violent as the one on Tuesday, Botti said, “you don’t expect that it will.”

Legal trail

Fresno County Superior Court records show that Congdon sought a civil harassment restraining order in 2018 against a neighbor in a court case that appeared to be a precursor to Tuesday’s incident. In the order, Congdon asked that the 58-year-old neighbor not “allow his dogs to enter petitioner’s property, except the easement road...(and) not dump on petitioner’s property. Respondent must not trespass onto petitioner’s property except for easement road...”

The court order was to remain in effect until Oct. 1, 2019, and ordered the neighbor not to possess or buy firearms or ammunition.

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

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