Behind the Story: The Downtown Fresno shootings

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FRESNO, California (KGPE) – Next month will mark the third anniversary of the Downtown Fresno shooting spree during which three men lost their lives at the hands of a man who told us he killed them because he was angry at white men.

Eleven days later, Kori Muhammad admitted to us in an exclusive interview that he killed the three men.

He also admitted to killing an unarmed security guard at a Motel 6 in central Fresno five days before the shooting spree.

On Jan. 22, 2020, trial proceedings began as the search for a jury started.

The April 18, 2017 killings

Three men, who authorities say were targeted for their race and gender, were gunned down in a shooting spree in Downtown Fresno.

The victims appeared to be random, Dyer said during a press conference later that day, but Muhammad later told us they were anything but.

Shot Spotter detected the first gunshots around 10:45 a.m. The gunman shot into a PG&E vehicle killing the passenger. The driver sped away and drove to Fresno Police Headquarters.

The gunman continued walking and opened fire at a local resident but missed. Shortly after, he encountered another resident and shot and killed that person.

He then continued to the area of Catholic Charities where he shot and killed a person in the parking lot.

Kori Ali Muhammad, then 39, shouted “Allahu Akbar” as police tackled him to the ground a short time after the third killing, then-Police Chief Jerry Dyer said.

These individuals that were chosen today did not do anything to deserve what they got. These were unprovoked attacks.

Jerry Dyer, Former Fresno Police Chief

The victims were identified as Zackary David Randalls, 34, of Clovis, who worked for PG&E; Mark James Gassett, 37, of Fresno, who was shot in front of his home; and David Martin Jackson, 58, of Fresno, who was waiting for a bus and was chased down on foot and shot in front of Catholic Charities.

Officers responded within one minute of the first shots. Muhammad was apprehended without police firing a shot.

“All sixteen of these rounds were fired in less than a minute within four different locations,” Dyer said.

Dyer said Muhammad was armed with a .357 revolver, but when he was apprehended, he didn’t have the gun.

The weapon has never been recovered.

Caught in the middle

Gregory Woods, who was a reporter for CBS47 in 2017, was already at Fresno Police Headquarters in Downtown Fresno at the time of the shootings.

Woods was there waiting to interview police about the manhunt for the Motel 6 shooter.

That’s when the driver of the PG&E truck arrived.

“I was inside the police station waiting for an interview when an officer yelled there was a shooting and ran outside,” Woods said.

Anti-white agenda

Muhammad used a social media account — in part — to perpetuate an anti-white agenda.

Dyer said the men who were killed are believed to have had no connection to Muhammad.

Kori Muhammad is not a terrorist, but he is a racist. And he’s filled with hate, and he set out … to kill as many people as he possibly could. Fortunately, he was taken into custody a short time after he committed those murders, and he’s not going to kill anyone else.

Jerry Dyer, Former Fresno Police Chief

A former classmate of Muhammad’s worked at CBS47 at the time of the shootings.

He said Muhammad would not show up for weeks at a time, and then return and accuse the teachers of being racist and out to get him.

“He’s very, very unstable,” the classmate said.

A former friend of Muhammad’s says he also saw that instability.

“I unfriended him about two years ago on Facebook,” said Jojo Romelo.  “I didn’t like the way he was going.”

Jojo Romelo considered himself Muhammad’s friend.

He says he met the shooting suspect in 2014 at CMAC — a non-profit public access television studio in Downtown Fresno where Muhammad’s hard rap persona sometimes took a softer edge.

“Nice to meet you, how you doing, how you been,” Romelo remembered. “It was always very nice.  I never saw him angry or mad, but you know what, I was thinking about it today and every time I saw him he looked unhappy. Even though he was smiling, he looked unhappy. Like there was something wrong with him.”

The Motel 6 killing

When the shooting spree took place, Muhammad was already wanted by police.

An unarmed security guard was shot and killed five days earlier outside a Motel 6 on Blackstone Avenue.

He was later identified as 25-year-old Carl Williams.

Williams’ coworkers say he was a respected leader who liked to laugh and was always smiling.

The shooting was caught on surveillance camera, and police were able to ID Muhammad as the shooter.

Dyer said Muhammad was watching local news at the Starbucks in the Tower District when he saw himself pictured as a suspect in the homicide.

Dyer said in 2017 that’s when Muhammad decided to go on his shooting spree.

Carl Williams’ sister, Ashley, told us by phone the family was at the funeral home making arrangements when they heard about the shootings near Downtown Fresno.

“My mom was actually talking to an investigator on the phone. And he had got the phone call that they had possibly captured the suspect that did this vicious murder to my brother,” Ashley Williams said.

Williams’ family had hoped Muhammad would be caught before anyone else was hurt.

“Knowing that this guy is locked up, and that unfortunately what he did to other people, it doesn’t bring any kind of — it doesn’t bring anything better because of what he did now,” Ashley Williams said.

Carl Williams’ family says he was working two jobs, trying to save up money to buy a house with his girlfriend.

The April 29, 2017 confession

Eleven days after the shooting spree, CBS47 reporter Matt Mendes made contact with Muhammad and interviewed him over the phone.

During that call, Muhammad admitted to killing the three men on April 17, 2017, and he admitted to killing Carl Williams at the Motel 6 on April 13, 2017.

The trial

The trial officially got started on Jan. 22.

On March 17 — just one month shy of the three-year anniversary of the shootings — Muhammad took the stand and again admitted to the killings.

Previous reporting by Gregory Woods, Angelica Lei Lani, Kathryn Herr, Megan Rupe, Patrick Nelson, Christina Tetrault, Connie Tran, Evan Onstot and Matt Mendes all contributed to this report.

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