Crime

Mistrial declared in Fresno gang member’s police shooting case

Wilson Khounvixay, 29, of Fresno, was accused of ordering another gang member to shoot two police officers in January 16, 2014. A Fresno County Superior Court jury on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015, voted 10-2 to find him not guilty of two counts of attempted murder.
Wilson Khounvixay, 29, of Fresno, was accused of ordering another gang member to shoot two police officers in January 16, 2014. A Fresno County Superior Court jury on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015, voted 10-2 to find him not guilty of two counts of attempted murder. The Fresno Police Department

A jury said Wednesday that it could not convict a Fresno gang member who was accused of ordering an underling to shoot two Fresno police officers in January 2014.

In fact, the Fresno County Superior Court jury voted 10-2 to say Wilson Khounvixay was not guilty of the attempted murders of police officers Timothy Sullivan and Jarite Gueringer. The jury of five men and seven woman also voted 11-1 to find him not guilty of three other felony charges including discharging a firearm and assault with a firearm.

Because the jury’s vote was not unanimous, Judge Gary Hoff declared a mistrial, giving the prosecution another opportunity to try Khounvixay, 29, on the five felony charges.

Prosecutor Noelle Pebet quickly asked Hoff to schedule a new trial on Sept. 28.

Afterward, defense attorney Ernest Scott Kinney, who defended Khounvixay, said the District Attorney’s Office should dismiss the case because it has no evidence to convict his client.

“This was not a rash decision by the jury,” Kinney said, noting that the jury deliberated at least two days and had asked for some testimony to be read back.

The shooting happened around 6 p.m. Jan. 16, 2014, on Fresno Street, south of Belmont Avenue near downtown.

Sullivan and Gueringer were in uniform and in a patrol car cruising the area, looking for a man wanted on drug possession. That’s when Asian Boyz gang member Joseph Chanla, 18, fired five shots at the patrol car, shattering the windshield, but missing the officers.

Lt. Mark Salazar said Chanla shot at police after Khounvixay, who is an older member of Asian Boyz, told him to do it.

After the shooting, Chanla ran, but Khounvixay was taken into custody at the crime scene, Kinney said. He was on probation after being convicted of evading police, resisting arrest and for weapons violations, Salazar said at the time of the shooting. But Kinney said Wednesday that Khounvixay had “no warrant for his arrest, no weapons on him, and no reason to run or fight with police.”

Police arrested Chanla a few days later after receiving a tip that he was hiding in an apartment on the 500 block of North Orchard Avenue. Salazar said Chanla confessed to the shooting and detectives found a loaded and stolen handgun in an inoperable TV inside the apartment.

Khounvixay stood trial without Chanla because court records say Chanla’s mental stability has been called into question.

During the trial, Khounvixay testified that he barely knew Chanla and had no clue he was going to shoot at police. Once gunfire erupted, Khounvixay said he ducked for cover.

Kinney said jurors told him after the mistrial was declared that if Khounvixay had ordered Chanla to shoot police, why didn’t he run away, too.

If convicted of the charges, Khounvixay would face a lifetime behind bars, Kinney said.

“I have yet to see a retrial with a jury decision like this,” Kinney said. “But Mr. Khounvixay and I are prepared to do it again if necessary.”

Pablo Lopez: 559-441-6434, @beecourts

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