One man was killed and several more were injured in Tulare County on Monday, but Gustavo Garcia’s crime spree began the day before he was ultimately killed himself.
THE EXETER FARMWORKER AND ROBBERY – AND THE TULARE VICTIM
Around 1 p.m. Sunday, a farmworker in Exeter was shot in the chest while picking fruit in the area of Balaam Avenue and Filbert Road.
“A farmworker told deputies he was on a ladder picking fruit when he heard a car slam on its brakes,” Tulare County Sheriff Spokeswoman Ashley Schwarm said.
He then heard three or four gunshots. As he fell, he noticed the ladder was being hit by bullets.
The victim landed on the ground and soon realized he had been shot in the chest.
He was taken to a local hospital and treated for his injury. He is expected to recover.
Shortly after the shooting, two men walked into the “AA Gas N Grub” at 520 S. Kaweah Ave. in Exeter, demanded money from the clerk and then fired three shots at the ceiling, the Sheriff’s Office said.
No one was hurt, but the suspects got away with more than $2,000.
Deputies tracked down surveillance video of the area where the shooting occurred, as well as where the robbery took place, and determined the car involved in both incidents was the same one.
They were also able to identify the driver of the vehicle as one of the armed robbers at the gas station – 36-year-old Garcia.
In Tulare around 7:30 p.m., Tulare Police officers responded to a Motel 6 where a female victim was shot.
The victim said she saw a man and made eye contact with him. He then followed her to her parking spot, and for unknown reasons opened fire.
She was hit in the arm and torso area, the interim Tulare Police Chief said.
She provided a description of the suspect and his vehicle.
Her injuries were not life threatening.
THE VISALIA HOMICIDE AND HOUSE SHOOTING
Around 2:30 a.m. Monday, officers responded to the AM/PM located at 600 S. Lovers Lane in Visalia for a report of shots fired.
When they arrived, they found a victim who had been shot.
A store clerk said that Garcia came in earlier and got coffee – then went outside.
Another man arrived at the AM/PM, and he and Garcia got into an altercation.
Garcia pulled out a gun and fired at the man several times. He then fled the area.
The victim, identified as Rocky Paul Jones, was transported to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead.
At 3:14 a.m., Visalia Police officers responded to a residence for a report of shots fired there.
Officers arrived and made contact with the victim who said her ex-boyfriend – Garcia – came to the location, made threats and fired several rounds in the backyard.
The woman was able to flee the home with her children without injury.
Garcia left the area, but that’s when officers were able to link him to the AM/PM shooting and the Exeter crimes, according to the Visalia Police Chief.
THE TULARE COUNTY CHASE AND OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTING
After the homicide, law enforcement had put out a notice to be on the lookout for Garcia. He was later spotted around 5 a.m.
He was able to evade officers in that short pursuit, but at 6:35 a.m., Tulare County Sheriff’s deputies spotted Garcia.
Deputies gave chase and followed Garcia to an orchard near Avenue 256 and Road 140 where he bailed out of his car. Officials believe his vehicle became inoperable.
Garcia immediately opened fire on deputies. Boudreaux said deputy vehicles were struck by bullets, but no deputy was hit.
Garcia fled into the orchard while deputies began establishing a perimeter.
Deputies made an announcement to alert workers in the orchard to evacuate the area. Three workers got into a vehicle in an attempt to leave as directed, but Garcia showed up and held them at gunpoint, authorities said.
Garcia carjacked the group, but the victims were not injured, according to authorities.
Before he could be apprehended, he fled in the stolen vehicle.
THE SECOND CHASE AND THE DEADLY CRASH NEAR PORTERVILLE
Garcia had gotten away in a victims’ car, but law enforcement got back into the chase.
He drove south down Highway 65 toward Porterville.
Officials say at times he was driving in excess of 100 mph and would drive into oncoming traffic forcing other drivers off the road.
The chase inched closer and closer to Porterville until it reached Linda Vista Avenue.
The California Highway Patrol said that information they were given says that Garcia was driving south in the northbound lanes intentionally trying to strike vehicles.
He eventually hit two vehicles near Linda Vista Avenue, and his momentum carried him south where he struck two additional vehicles.
Garcia was ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene, CHP said.
THE CRASH VICTIMS AND THE CASE THAT ISN’T CLOSED
Five vehicles were involved in the crash, and the highway was littered with car engines and mangled vehicles.
While Garcia laid dead on the highway, the innocent victims involved were rushed to area hospitals.
One victim was transported to a hospital in Fresno with serious injuries, and three others were taken to a hospital in Porterville with minor injuries.
Boudreaux said Garcia had many prior runs-ins with law enforcemen, and he had INS holds in 2004 and 2012 – and he was even deported in 2014.
The case isn’t closed.
A second suspect is still being sought for his involvement of the robbery in Exeter, and his potential involvement in everything else that occurred.
He is described as Hispanic in his late 20s to 30s, 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-8, between 150 to 160 pounds. He has short black hair and was wearing a dark blue collared shirt and dark colored pants. He has a dark-colored tattoo on the outside of his right forearm.
Boudreaux said, “We have one man that essentially has been on a personal reign of terror in the last 24 hours and 48 hours.” Now that man is dead, and many others were affected by his actions.