How a Fourth of July block party turned into a deadly shootout in southeast Fresno

A deadly mix of alcohol, social media and armed gang members turned a neighborhood Fourth of July block party into a shootout Thursday night that left one man dead and three other people wounded, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said Friday.

Police, who fear the violence will continue this weekend, are sending 50 extra officers onto the streets to try and prevent retaliatory shootings.

Killed at the party in the 4700 block of East Hamilton Avenue in southeast Fresno was Ernest Carter, 34. A 20-year-old woman and two men, ages 26 and 27, were also hit by gunfire when feuding gang members started a gunfight.

“We are very, very, fortunate that we did not have multiple people killed as a result of this incident including children,,” Dyer said at a Friday afternoon news conference.

In recounting the violence, Dyer said police began receiving a flood of 911 calls just before 11 p.m. and arrived to a “very chaotic scene” with about 200 people on sidewalks and yards. Carter was mortally wounded by a gunshot in the street and he was then run over by a DJ who was trying to rush the wounded woman, hit by bullets in the hip and arm, to the hospital. The two wounded men were nearby.

Detectives are still sorting out just who is responsible for the violence, but witnesses “have not been very cooperative with investigators,” Dyer said. He said some residents have reported that their video cameras were not working when the violence erupted.

Ernest Carter, 34, was shot and killed when gang members began shooting at a Fourth of July block party in southeast Fresno. Fresno Police Department

What they have learned is that residents at one home planned a small neighborhood event to celebrate the holiday. It began about 2 p.m., but by 8 p.m., “masses of people” began to show up after someone created a flyer about the party and posted it on social media. There was a lot of alcohol and fireworks, including illegal ones, at the event by that time, as well.

Things began to spiral out of control about 10:20 p.m., when disturbances and fighting broke out, Dyer said. A half-hour later, the shooting began as several people exchanged fire, including the occupants of a dark-colored SUV who shot into the crowd and circled the neighborhood three times to fire more rounds.

Investigators found 58 shell casings on the ground, along with the burnt remnants of illegal fireworks. Four cars were hit by the shooters.

Dyer said none of the wounded victims were gang members. The wounded woman underwent surgery and is in stable condition. One of the male victims is still hospitalized and one has been released.

He said police have had prior contacts with Carter, but did not elaborate on the nature of those contacts.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call detectives at 559-621-2149, or Crime Stoppers at 559-498-STOP to remain anonymous.

Related stories from Fresno Bee

A native of Colorado, Jim Guy studied political science, Latin American politics and Spanish literature at Fresno State University, and advanced Spanish grammar in Cuernavaca, Mexico.