Crime

From the archive: Fresno County deputies hurt, gunman slain

In a file photo, a Fresno police SWAT member gets ready to move in to where a Fresno County sheriff’s deputy and a canine officer were shot by a suspect near a tire shop south of Fresno on July 14, 2009. The suspect was later shot and killed by officers.
In a file photo, a Fresno police SWAT member gets ready to move in to where a Fresno County sheriff’s deputy and a canine officer were shot by a suspect near a tire shop south of Fresno on July 14, 2009. The suspect was later shot and killed by officers. ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

Originally published in The Fresno Bee on July 15, 2009

Deputies quick to answer a call for help, a sheriff's dog and two women on their way to work were hailed as heroes in a shooting Tuesday that left the gunman dead and two officers wounded.

The rifle-wielding gunman killed by Fresno County sheriff's SWAT team officers was identified as Jesus Serna, 32, of Fresno.

The incident began with a call reporting a man with a gun at a tire shop just south of Fresno. Sheriff Margaret Mims said Serna shot at the first two deputies to arrive, firing even before the deputies could get out of their cars.

Deputy George Ozburn was struck by bullet and glass fragments in his shoulder, arm and face. Ozburn never lost consciousness and directed other deputies to the shooting scene before he was taken to a hospital.

Deputy Mark Eaton was hit in the arm by glass fragments. He stayed on the scene to help with the investigation.

Mims praised two women who came to Ozburn's aid moments after he was shot: "They stepped up. This was a dangerous situation. ... They stopped the bleeding and helped him from going into shock.

"My gratitude is boundless."

At a Tuesday afternoon news conference, Mims described what happened at Jerry's Tire Shop on Elm Avenue just south of North Avenue.

Just after 8 a.m., a shop employee reported a man he knew as "Chewy" was at the business with a gun. Initial reports said Serna went to the shop to confront a man he thought was having an affair with his wife, but Mims declined to discuss those details.

Serna used a semi-automatic rifle to fire at the driver's side window of Ozburn's marked patrol car and Eaton's unmarked car.

"This incident happened so fast, the deputies didn't have time to get out of their vehicles," Mims said.

After Serna fired at the deputies, he drove about 50 yards away, crashed into a fence and ran into an area where wood pallets are stored.

Within minutes of the shooting, other deputies, Fresno and Clovis police and California Highway Patrol officers sped to the scene, some dressed in civilian clothing. Heavily armed officers carrying rifles and shotguns fanned out around the industrial area as the sheriff's helicopter circled.

A deputy who arrived moments after the shooting helped Ozburn, who took cover behind a building wall, clutching his shoulder.

That's when the women, Yvette Dader and Angelique Rocha, took over.

They said they had been driving to work. Dader said she is a home care worker who is interested in medicine.

"I applied direct pressure ," Dader said. "We just tried to help as much as we could, which wasn't much, because we were waiting for the ambulance.

"I always seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Corrected Rocha: "You weren't in the wrong place."

Ozburn, 34 and a 12-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office, was taken to Community Regional Medical Center and released about 11:30 a.m., Mims said. Eaton, 41 and a 15-year veteran, was treated at the scene and released.

The sheriff's SWAT team was training Tuesday morning; less than an hour after the deputies were shot, the SWAT officers with Reno the sheriff's dog and his handler, deputy Robert Marean, were searching the storage area. They found Serna barricaded behind a pile of pallets and tires.

Deputies told Serna to come out, but he refused. Reno was "sent in to catch the bad guy, and he was shot in the line of duty," Mims said. The round hit Reno behind his left ear and exited through his face, she said. Reno survived but lost his left eye.

Deputies fired several shots at Serna, killing him.

Mims said Serna "didn't care for his safety. He didn't care for the deputy sheriff's safety. He certainly didn't care for the safety of the public. But he paid the price."

Mims said Serna has an arrest record for violent crimes, but declined to say what those crimes were.

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