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Sheriff's detective killed in Fresno Co. shooting

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02/25/2010 08:14 PM
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Sheriff's detective killed in Fresno Co. shooting
Sheriff's detective killed in Fresno Co. shooting
The Fresno Bee

A sheriff's detective was killed and a Reedley police officer critically wounded in a shooting Thursday morning in rural Fresno County. Authorities say a man who was being served a warrant after several arson fires opened fire with a rifle in the tiny town of Minkler. A sheriff's deputy was wounded by shrapnel.

Hundreds of law-enforcement officers have surrounded the mobile home in which the suspect has barricaded himself.

Here are updates as the incident unfolds:

View Sheriff's detective killed in shooting in a larger map

A Fresno County sheriff's detective, right, is comforted by a collegue outside the emergency ward at at Community Regional Medical Center as Sheriff Margaret Mims, left, gets briefed on Thursday morning's shootings in Minkler.

A Fresno County sheriff's deputy with a head wound taken into Community Regional Medical Center's emergency ward Thursday morning following a shooting in Minkler.
map of shooting

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4:30 p.m.: The Fresno Police Department will take over the investigation of the deputy's killing, Sheriff's Office spokesman Chris Curtice said. Curtice said he had no additional information. "Things are fluid," he said.

Curtice said he expects to have a media update within the next hour.

4:15 p.m.: The Fresno County Sheriff's Office announced Highway 180 will remain closed between Piedra, Reed, and Frankwood avenues until further notice.

3:30 p.m.: The sheriff's department has started hauling large, stadium-type lighting to the scene.

3:30 p.m.: Aida Romero lives about a mile from the shooting scene and was at the Minkler store when the shooting occurred.

Romero said he first saw four or five pickups down the street before they pulled into the driveway of the suspect's home. They were unmarked but had flashing police lights, she said.
He said the school has sent out at least three recorded telephone messages to keep parents informed of the situation.

3:05 p.m.: The surviving Fresno County deputy wounded in the shooting reportedly was struck in his eyes by shrapnel.

2:53 p.m.: Two vacationers from Washington state, Will Hatley and Rick Summerfield, found themselves surrounded by gunfire when they stopped for groceries at the Minkler store as the incident erupted.

"There was a massive amount of gunfire," said Summerfield. Hatley described hearing both pistol and high-powered rifle fire. Almost immediately, they said, dozens and then hundreds of police sped into the area.

"It was an incredible response," said Summerfield. One deputy could be heard calling for assistance on sheriff's frequencies.

"Bring more .45-caliber ammunition!" he said.

Shortly after police set up a perimeter, a Reedley police officer was stuck by gunfire. Sheriff's deputies scrambled to take cover behind cars and other barriers. They warned bystanders to move back.

"He's got a sniper rifle!" one deputy warned.

2:50 p.m.: The Reedley police officer shot in the deadly standoff in Minkler is on life support in a Fresno hospital, said Rocky Rogers, Reedley city manager.

The officer was identified by Rogers as Javier Bejar. He was shot while on the perimeter of the shooting scene, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said.

Bejar, who is about 28, has been with the Reedley Police Department since 2008, Rogers said.

2:46 p.m.: Chuck Minkler, who rented a home to the man who lives in the mobile home currently under siege by law-enforcement, said there have been eight or nine fires on his 20-acre property over the past six months.

He said the man lives in the mobile home with a wife and a number of small dogs.

The fires, Minkler said, damaged a two-story storage structure and a small home, Minkler said. He estimates damage was about $100,000. He said someone also tried to set fire to a tractor on his property.

There also have been reports of shots fired into the Minkler store and a shot fired into his sister's home earlier this week. "The fires got more frequent over the past six months and we were growing more concerned about my sister," he said.

Sally Minkler was grazed in the back by shots that were fired in "rapid succession" at her home, which is near the mobile home where the man resides.

Minkler said he did not know if the man fired shots at the store or Sally Minkler's home, or set the fires.

"I got along with him when there was anything that had to be corrected I would talk to him and that's the way it worked," Chuck Minkler said. "There may have been some other issues but not to do with me."

2:38 p.m.: Sheriff Mims declined to identify the officer killed in the shooting. She did say he was a homicide detective who had worked for the Sheriff's Office for many years.

"This morning I had to deliver a message that no law enforcement leader wants to deliver," said Mims, her voice cracking with emotion. "I had to tell a wife that her husband has been killed in the line of duty."

2:37 p.m.: Mims said the purpose of the search warrant was based on reports of arson and on an investigation of shots that reportedly were fired from the house a couple of days ago.

2:30 p.m.: One of the Fresno County sheriff's deputies involved in Thursday morning's shooting in Minkler has died, Sheriff Margaret Mims said.

Fresno County deputies were assisting Cal Fire in serving a search warrant when the shooting occurred. Shots were fired as they were serving warrant.
Staff writers Jim Guy, Marc Benjamin, Tracy Correa, Chris Collins, Eddie Jimenez, Mark Grossi and Brad Branan contributed to this report.

The suspect, who was then outside, waved his gun around and then started shooting at the deputies, Romero said.

"He looked real crazy," she said.

Romero said the suspect went inside the home and shot from inside the home, hitting a deputy in the cheek. The deputy fell to the ground, she said.

3:25 p.m.: Fresno County Coroner David Hadden confirmed his office had received the body of the slain sheriff's deputy.

The deputy's body, in a coroner's truck, was escorted by law enforcement vehicles in front and behind the truck, their light bars flashing.

Hadden, his voice cracking, said he and his staff were saddened because they had worked frequently with the slain detective.

"He was a really nice guy," Hadden said. "My whole staff is incredibly emotionally upset."

Hadden did not release the deputy's name.

3:10 p.m.: Some parents who have access to Centerville Elementary School — about a mile away from today's shooting in Minkler — will be able to pick up their children from school today, though the school remains on official lockdown.

If a parent isn't blocked by the perimeter set up by law enforcement and arrives at the school to pick up their child, "we have been given permission to release them," said Marcus Johnson, superintendent of Sanger Unified School District. He said children will be escorted to the gate to meet parents who arrive. The school day ends at 3:20 p.m.

Generally, the only people who will be able to get through the perimeter are west of the school located at 48 S. Smith Ave., near Highway 180. Johnson cautioned that parents shouldn't flood the school since it is still on lockdown and the children are safe.

The school was placed on lockdown at the urging of law enforcement after the shooting near Minkler occurred. "We are officially still under lockdown and will remain until we are cleared by the Sheriff's Department," Johnson said.

He said the school is prepared to hold the students in locked classrooms for their protection as long as necessary. The students ate lunch in locked classrooms Thursday and Johnson said Centerville's after-school program, with plenty of snacks, will keep students busy and fed. "It may be a while," Johnson said.
Staff writers Jim Guy, Marc Benjamin, Tracy Correa, Chris Collins, Eddie Jimenez, Mark Grossi and Brad Branan contributed to this report.

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