The two men killed after a robbery turned into a shootout Friday have been identified as 22-year-old Chris Casas and 18-year-old Jesus Gonzales.
Police said the two suspects and a third man entered the Smoke N Vape Smokeshop on Blackstone and Cambridge at about 9:30 p.m.
“For sure there was a robbery involving these three individuals that came in armed and were leaving the business and were confronted by the owner,” Lt. Tim Tietjen with the Fresno Police Department said.
Tietjen said officers believe the confrontation led to an exchange of gunfire between the suspects and owner. Casas and Gonzales were shot and killed. No one else was hurt.
The shootout erupted too close to home for some. “I have children, the bus stop is right across the street. You know they always want to run around and play and stuff. So it is a little bit of a scary thought,” Matthew Varela said.
Basheer Alashmali said he was the only one working at his cousin’s shop across the street when the shots rang out. At first he thought they were fireworks.
“The people went out. They were looking over there and I was like ‘What’s happening? Is there a shooting?’ ‘Yes, there’s a shooting.’ I got scared. I shut everything down. I shut the store down and just ran away,” he said.
Tietjen said investigators are now taking a close look at what led to the shooting. They are reviewing surveillance video and talking to witnesses.
Legal analyst David Mugridge said based on the information so far, it’s unlikely the owner will be prosecuted.
“The shop owner doesn’t have to wait to be shot if he sees somebody with weapons hurriedly running out of his store and he thinks he’s just robbed somebody and maybe hurt somebody in the store. He’s entitled to defend himself,” he said.
Officers had not made an arrest of the third suspect by Saturday night, and said the investigation is at a critical point and they can’t release any more information. They hope to have an update sometime next week.
The smoke shop was closed during business hours Saturday.