Police piece together rampage: Calif. gunman obsessed with law enforcement
By Barbara Anderson, Marc Benjamin and Louis Galvan
A 23-year-old Clovis security guard responsible for an overnight shooting rampage had a fixation with law enforcement, police say.
Fresno police detectives combed at least six crime scenes Wednesday, trying to piece together what happened in the 10-minute shooting spree and chase that left three officers and a bystander wounded and ended with the gunman being shot and killed by officers.
Police cordoned off several streets with yellow tape, from the Tower District to a quiet central Fresno neighborhood, as they searched for shell casings and other evidence along the man's trail.
Officers combed through the crime scenes for much of the day and into the evening on Linden Avenue, where the shooting started. Some who parked their cars Tuesday night on Linden before the violence began found their vehicles off limits all day Wednesday.
Marcus Sanchez, whose car was behind police tape, got some extra exercise.
"I rode my bicycle to work at Kaiser" on Herndon Avenue, he said.
At a news conference Wednesday, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer identified the deceased gunman as Joel Perales, 23, of Clovis, a man with extensive firearms training who appeared to have an obsession with law enforcement.
Reached at his Clovis home, Perales' father, Paul Perales Sr., said his son was unstable and expressed sympathy for those injured. "I don't condone his behavior, but unfortunately, we have people among us who are mentally ill," Paul Perales Sr. said. "I want to express my deepest condolences to the people involved. I wish them the best; we are good people."
Dyer said officers Gil Holguin, 43, Raphael Davies, 45, and Sgt. Charlie Chamalbide, 40, are expected to make full recoveries and return to duty.
A 56-year-old woman, who was not identified, was shot in the lower back. She was undergoing surgery Wednesday and also was expected to make a full recovery, Dyer said.
"She was very, very fortunate it did not strike her spine," Dyer said.
The late-night chase Tuesday began in the Tower District, where hundreds were celebrating Fat Tuesday, and ended 10 minutes later in central Fresno after police say Joel Perales fired at least 40 rounds from a .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun at six locations.
Dyer said this is how the incident unfolded:
Motorcycle officer Holguin spotted Joel Perales driving the wrong direction on Wishon Avenue about 11 p.m. and attempted to pull him over.
Instead of stopping, Perales continued for three blocks to the intersection of Linden Avenue and Fern, where he got out of his car and fired several shots -- striking Holguin in the right elbow and right thigh. Holguin dove behind a nearby truck for cover. Perales continued to fire at Holguin.
A bullet fired by Perales hit the 56- year-old woman in the back as she left a business at Olive and Linden avenues.
Perales returned to his car and drove away. Two other motorcycle officers pursued him. At College and Floradora avenues, Perales positioned his car so he could fire directly at the officers, shooting at least 10 rounds from a handgun. No one was injured.
Officers continued to pursue Perales, reaching speeds of 70 mph.
At Clinton and Blackstone avenues, Perales again fired and hit officer Davies in the left arm. Davies continued the pursuit.
At First Street and Clinton Avenue, Perales again got into a position to shoot. One bullet struck the windshield of officer Chamalbide's patrol car and grazed his right temple. Despite a bleeding gash, he continued the pursuit.
Officers fired four shotgun blasts at Perales at First Street and Dakota Avenue but did not hit him. Perales turned onto First Street and Ashlan Avenue and into a residential neighborhood.
At Angus Street and Dakota, a neighborhood of older, neatly maintained homes, he stopped the car and appeared to fumble with something. Officers thought he was reloading his gun.
Chamalbide ended the chase by ramming the back of Perales' car and sending it into a parked Jeep Wrangler across the street.
When Perales opened the driver's door slightly, officers ordered him to show his hands. He refused, and officers fired 80 bullets. Nineteen officers were present. The shooting shattered the quiet at Angus and Dakota.
Mike Contreras, 45, who lives at the southwest corner, was watching TV when he heard a large bang outside and thought someone had a car accident.
As he started to go outside, he heard shots. Seconds later, he said, he saw officers lined up on the street advancing toward a wrecked car and shooting.
"They fired a ton of shots," he said.
Contreras' wife, Esther, 33, said she did not go further than her front steps when the shooting started and that her main concern was to get her husband and her 17-year-old son back inside the house to get out from harm's way.
Said Mike Contreras: "When the shooting stopped, the whole place was covered with gunsmoke."
Another neighbor, Fred Johnson, 57, was getting ready for work when he heard shots getting close: "I heard the shooting. It was like pop, pop, pop."
Johnson, a truck driver for Anlin Window Systems in Clovis, said when he heard crashes in his driveway and more gunshots ringing, he rushed into a bedroom where his grandchildren were asleep to make sure they were OK.
Johnson said when he looked outside, the front of his Jeep was smashed and riddled with gunshot holes. A gray Ford Escort was sandwiched between the Jeep and a Fresno police car.
As daylight broke, Johnson saw his driveway streaked with blood and small yellow signs that numbered above 100, indicating where bullet casings and other debris landed.
Inside Perales' car, Dyer said, investigators found ear protection, a semi-automatic .40-caliber handgun, one .40-caliber magazine and five boxes of ammunition, some of them empty. "We believe he was taking rounds from the boxes and reloading," Dyer said.
Perales was wearing an ankle holster for a small-caliber handgun and had a holster on his waist for a .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun. Officers are looking for a .32-caliber handgun that would have fit inside the ankle holster.
Dyer said Perales, a security guard licensed to carry a gun on duty, had extensive firearms training.
Perales did not have a lengthy criminal record, but had a prior arrest on suspicion of a terrorist threat. He also had a suspended or revoked driver's license and several traffic citations.
A Fresno County assistant district attorney said the terrorist case against Perales was reviewed in September 2005, but there was insufficient evidence to file charges.
Dyer said tests have not been completed to reveal whether Perales was using drugs or alcohol.
Officers learned from Perales' parents that he was fixated on law enforcement. Dyer theorized that Perales was trying to bait officers into a pursuit. "I really believe God's protective hands was on our police officers," Dyer said.
Holguin, an eight-year veteran of the police department, underwent surgery at University Medical Center for a plate in his elbow. Davies, an eight-year veteran of the force, was treated at the scene. Chamalbide, an 11-year police veteran and sergeant in the central district, was examined at UMC and released.
Dyer said he feels fortunate that only the gunman was killed: "We easily could have had five or six people killed last night."
Copyright 2007 McClatchy Newspapers, Inc.
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