FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – New details about what led up to an officer-involved shooting near Fresno’s Woodward Park have been released by the Fresno Police Department.
Officials say the investigation prompted suggestions that Wednesday’s incident in the area of Friant and Fort Washington roads was an attempt at so-called “suicide by cop.”
Police say they got a 911 call from Fort Washington Fitness saying a male in a white Volkswagen said he was going to start shooting.
Officers arrived to see the car driving erratically in the dirt lot next to the shopping center. The police department says the suspect got out of the car and approached officers with his hand in his pocket and what looked like a real handgun. Police officials say the suspect wouldn’t drop the gun and officers fired. Officers later established that the gun was not real – and investigators realized the 911 caller was calling about himself.
Chris Roup from the National Alliance of Mental Illness in Fresno says these types of encounters can take a huge toll on the mental health of the officers who responded.
“If officers have to come out to that kind of call for service, and they don’t know this information, it puts everyone in danger,” said Roup. “And most importantly it puts that individual who’s in crisis in danger.”
Roup says their organization often works with Fresno Police Department to check in on officers’ mental health. After being involved in a situation like this, she says it’s normal for officers to not feel completely all right.
“Understanding that it’s going to take some time, downtime to really rest, rest your mind.”
Chief Paco Balderrama released a statement describing the incident as a tragic event.
Our hearts go out to all who were involved and impacted. I am relieved my officers were not hurt, and no lives were lost. This incident will be fully investigated, and body-worn camera video will be released to the public at the appropriate time and in accordance with the law. For many, the holiday season can be an emotional and stressful time. We encourage those who feel troubled or overwhelmed to seek out professional assistance for guidance and help.Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama
The officers involved have been placed on administrative leave.