Panic overtook a family gathering at The Branch & Vine in Madera County on Sunday after a CHP officer shot and killed a carjacking suspect yards away from the party.
The shooting happened after 3 p.m. Officers had been after the suspect after a report of a carjacking near Avenue 15 and Highway 41 a little before 2 p.m. At 2:19, the stolen car was reported to be in an accident and the suspect had fled on foot.
The suspect led several law enforcement officers on a foot chase in the area, before making his way toward the engagement party.
When he came into view, Jaime Gonzalez said safety for women and children became a priority and he was ready to protect.
“I told the kids to get inside [the barn],” Gonzalez said. “I was ready to tackle him down.”
A CHP officer fired the fatal shots before the suspect could make his way closer to the party. Something Madera County Sheriff Jay Varney is very thankful for.
“Life seems to be getting crazier and crazier. I’m certainly happy no innocent people were put at risk,” Varney said.
Gonzalez said he saw the suspect had a hand in his pocket and thinks that’s why the officer fired. He feels it’s justified because too much was at stake.
“[The suspect] could have grabbed anybody. A kid, somebody’s daughter, somebody’s wife and hole them hostage. We don’t need that,” he said.
The party got back into full swing fast, Gonzalez said once the ordeal was over the family quickly remembered the special occasion they were there for.
There were two other suspects involved in the initial carjacking. Authorities arrested them soon after it happened.