Fresno Police Shoot Unarmed Man in the Back

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Angelo Fernandez was unarmed when he was shot in the back by a Fresno police officer.

Angelo Fernandez had just gotten into the back of his brother’s car after they bought a few things from a discount store at Peach and Belmont. With his brother in the front and his friend next to him, he was expecting an uneventful ride back to his brother’s apartment.

From out of nowhere, two large unmarked vehicles ran into the front of their car and another car blocked them from the back. Fernandez jumped out of the car and ran from the men, who were not in uniform, had guns and began to chase him.

Dashing across the parking lot, Fernandez says he heard no orders to stop as he was knocked to the ground by a large caliber hollow point bullet that entered his back, smashed through his kidney and lodged in his stomach. Almost immediately, he was surrounded by his pursuers, who according to witnesses and Fernandez, began kicking him. One of the men was heard to say “why are you acting like a little bitch?” as Fernandez cried out in pain.

Back at the car, Robert Fernandez was on the ground with a gun to his head. “You hear that (the gunshot), that is the sound of your partner being smoked,” said the man with the gun.

“He dared me to move so he could blow my brains out,” Robert said.

The Fresno Police Department immediately went into PR mode and soon Chief Jerry Dyer was speaking to the public through the mainstream media. Dyer said that Angelo Fernandez was a violent validated Bulldog gang member who was wanted for a carjacking and firing a weapon at somebody. Dyer’s public information officer was busy e-mailing the media a mug shot of a heavily tattooed Fernandez.

Dyer explained why Fernandez, who was unarmed, was shot in the back by an officer. “When Fernandez turned and started running towards the store, the officer felt that if he was allowed to get away, possibly armed, get inside of that store, that he could create a hostage situation,” Dyer said. “It is our belief at least at this point in time, that the officers’ actions were reasonable under the circumstances.”

But several witnesses to the incident say they did not see Fernandez turn to run into the store. Bao Le, who works at the 96 Cents store, said he saw Angelo run across the parking lot, about 90 feet from the entrance of the R-N Market. He said that Angelo was running parallel to the market. Neither Le or any of the other witnesses I spoke with saw Angelo turn to run into the store. They all say he was running toward an open field at the other end of the parking lot.

Catherine Campbell, a local attorney, says that the police do not have the right to shoot an unarmed person in the back because they think he might commit some crime in the future.

Fernandez was taken to Community Hospital where his family was not allowed to visit him, but they did receive a bill for more than $100,000. A few days later, he was transferred to the Fresno County Jail and charged with a drug offense, not the carjacking or weapons charges for which he was allegedly being pursued. When he arrived at the jail, he was put into a cell with several White inmates who beat him up. It is the policy at the jail to separate members of rival gangs because violent incidents do take place when this protocol is not followed. It is unclear why this protocol was not followed with Fernandez.

In an exclusive jailhouse interview with Fernandez, the Community Alliance learned that he believes the police were attempting an extra-judicial execution. “I believe in my heart that they were out to kill me,” Fernandez said. He said that he believes Dyer has a vendetta against the Bulldogs because of an incident involving Christina Dyer, Jerry Dyer’s niece, who Fernandez said was a Bulldog involved in a robbery/murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Fernandez questioned why the police didn’t just grab him as he walked out of the store. He said “it reminds me of the Joaquin Figueroa case,” where the police shot and killed his friend in a car. Figueroa was the subject of a massive manhunt in August 2008, when he was wanted for shooting a police officer. When the police found Figueroa he was in a car, which they surrounded, similar to how Fernandez was stopped. Figueroa got out, tried to run, was blocked and then jumped back into the car where he was shot and killed. Dyer at the time said his officer thought Figueroa was looking for a gun in the car. No gun was found.

In September 2009, Lonnie Graham was shot to death by Fresno police officers when he stepped out of a house with a cell phone in his hand. The officers involved said they feared for their lives. Graham was found to be unarmed. At a press conference after that shooting, Dyer said Graham was a gang member, that someone might have seen him armed recently and ad an extensive criminal record.

There is a clear pattern of Dyer discrediting the people shot by his officers. Shortly after each incident, Dyer holds a press conference and justifies why his officers shot the person. Dyer knows the value of winning public opinion, and the mainstream media will use whatever he says.

For example, Dyer said that Angelo Fernandez had said he would not be taken alive. When asked about that, Fernandez just put his hands up, saying, “I never said anything like that.” He also insisted that he had not been involved with a carjacking or a shooting incident. The fact that the chief of police said these things about Fernandez will be what most people in Fresno remember about this incident. Fernandez, until now, has not been able to tell his side of the story.

Angelo Fernandez was released from state prison on March 31, 2011, and was on three years’ parole. “My parole agent didn’t like me and wanted to send me back to prison,” Fernandez said. She told me “all Bulldogs should be locked away.” Fernandez is a Bulldog gang member, but he is also a son, a brother and a father who was looking forward to a life outside of the Prison Industrial Complex.

Angelo Fernandez believes he was targeted by the police to be executed on the streets of Fresno. With no independent investigation taking place of the circumstances of this incident, how will the community know if the shooting was justified, an accident, the result of a rogue officer operating within the police department or a pattern of extrajudicial executions?

The trouble with his parole agent happened almost immediately. “She (his parole agent) came to my house five times in the first seven days, after my release.” Fernandez was living with his parents in a house in southeast Fresno. “She came one day and I wasn’t there. I was out looking for a job and taking care of business, trying to get food stamps and stuff like that. I think she was mad I wasn’t there and told me to be there the next day, so I waited all day for her, but she did not show up. So, the next day I went out looking for work again and she came. She was very angry that I was not there when she arrived.”

Fernandez was concerned that his parole agent was going to “violate” him and send him back to prison, so he went to visit her supervisor to request another parole agent. Instead of finding someone more compatible, Angelo was ordered into a “life skills” Turning Point program on G Street south of Ventura.

Fernandez described that facility as being like a minimum security prison. He believed that his parole agent was going to find one way or another to send him back to prison, and he said, “I just wanted to be free.” He hopped the fence and didn’t go back. Living with friends, doing odd jobs like landscaping and air-conditioning work, he thought he could live under the radar and slowly get his life together.

All of that changed when he went to his brother’s apartment and drove to the discount store to buy some odds and ends. Questions remain about the tactics used to arrest Fernandez; was the use of deadly force appropriate under the circumstances? Eddie Aubrey, the director of the Office of Independent Review, said he will look into the incident and a report should be forthcoming. The Central California Criminal Justice Committee (CCCJC), which pushed the city hard for an independent police auditor, seems to be looking to Aubrey for guidance.

Rebeca Rangel, co-coordinator for the CCCJC, wrote in an e-mail, responding to this incident, that “it is not our job to decide how Aubrey will respond. That is why he was hired. We wouldn’t think to micromanage him. However, I believe it is important to communicate community concerns. He has made it very clear, several times, that he wants lines of communication to be open, especially when there are issues or concerns.”

Just before going to press, the Community Alliance learned that the City of Fresno is eliminating Eddie Aubrey’s job. The City Council agreed to fund a graffiti-prostitution prosecutor with the money saved by shutting down the Office of Independent Review. The removing of Aubrey and the elimination of the OIR removes any credible argument that there is any independent oversight of police shootings in Fresno.

Longtime community activist Gloria Hernandez takes a different approach than the CCCJC. She said that “the FPD [Fresno Police Department] are stepping over the line if they think they can predict the future ability of someone to commit a crime and think they can get away with shooting the person in the back. So then in order to cover up their inability to prove their prediction that Fernandez was going to commit a crime (violently take hostages) they start tampering with the jury pool and the public by lying about him about a supposed crime of car-jacking and shooting at people that supposedly took place a week before the attempted assassination of Fernandez. So, if that is true why is he booked under possession and not the car-jacking?”

Fresno police officer Carl McKnight shot Angelo Fernandez in the back. McKnight has been involved in several shootings, two of them fatal.

Although the ACLU has not committed directly on this case, it was a previous lawsuit they filed that forced the Fresno Police Department to quickly release the name of the officer involved in this incident. Carl McKnight, the officer who shot Fernandez, is one of several FPD officers who has been involved in multiple officer-involved shootings. McKnight shot and killed Vue Xiong in 2002 and Garland King in 2003. Several officers in the FPD have shot more than one suspect. Ali Winston wrote an interesting article about this phenomena last year for Color Lines magazine, which was reprinted in the Community Alliance newspaper titled “Dozens of Fresno Cops in Repeated Brutality Cases.” What Winston found was that several FPD officers were involved in multiple shootings from 2002 to 2009 (see sidebar).

The District Attorney’s office, due to budget cutbacks, no longer investigates officer-involved shootings, unless requested to do so by the FPD. Nobody is holding their breath for the FPD to make that call. Few observers expect the Office of Independent Review to shake up the FPD pattern and the practice of officer-involved shootings, and the Internal Affairs department historically has not been a source of relief for community members who have concerns about the FPD’s use of excessive force.

Community activist Hernandez said that “repeat shooter Carl McKnight will never be charged with the crime of shooting an unarmed Angelo Fernandez because it’s business as usual under Dyer’s 10-year leadership.”

She added that “a transparent and thorough investigation will not occur because the powerful forces in the city do not want the truth to be told. We will never know why the FPD and Dyer publicly lied about why the department wanted Fernandez so bad…dead or alive!”

The time is right for the progressive community to demand a full investigation into this shooting and for those results to be made public. The goal of this effort is to achieve justice for Angelo Fernandez and to reduce the number of officer-involved shootings in Fresno.

*****

Fresno Police Department Multiple Officer-Involved Shootings

Name and Number of Shootings

Daniel Astacio — 2

Andre Benson — 2

Tom Canales — 2

Alfred Campos — 2

Alfonso Castillo — 2

Paul Cervantes — 2

Stacie Colby — 2

Christopher Cooper — 4

Christopher Desmond — 2

Rick Harrell — 2

John Herring — 2

Justin Hoagland — 2

Daniel Gonzalez — 3

Carl McKnight — 2

Paige McQuay — 3

Gunter Meiss — 5

Richard Nadeau — 2

Michael Palomino — 3

Kennan Rodems — 2

Louis Sanchez — 2

David Surabian — 2

Brian Sturgeon — 2

Marcus Tafoya — 4

Rudolpho Tafoya — 2

Allen Taliaferro — 2

Matthew Vincent — 3

James Young — 2

Source: Color Lines magazine

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The Community Alliance newspaper received (just before going to the printer) this poem from Angelo Fernandez, the victim of police shooting which is described above.

My Place
A poem by Angelo Fernandez

As the flashes of my life pass my thoughts,

I’m forced to bare the pain.

I lay on the pavement with sirens around,

but family memories help me to sustain.

Each breath I take, I hear screams

and paramedics telling me to hold on…

I see my mom and dad crying and a

small voice saying “daddy be strong.”

I finally resume consciousness and tubes are

being yanked out my throat without care,

I find my body torn open, handcuffed and

the people I love, weren’t right there.

Tears streamed down my face as I questioned

loved ones’ absences and found out no one knew.

I lay in the trauma center with no strength,

violated of every human rules.

Then the doors open and I see the tears

on my mother’s and big brother’s face.

I smiled to my family ’cause God knew my place.

  • Albert De Leon

    You live the life of crime and now your crying because you have been shot.The Fresno Police is tired of gang members and I dont blame them.I would have shot your ass as well.

    • robert fernandez

      IN REPLY TO DE LEON’S COMMENT, YOU WOULDNT HAVE THE GUTS TO SHOOT FERNANDEZ PUNK, AND IF U DID HIS BROTHERS WOULD MAKE SURE YOU JOINED HIM IN HELL !!!!!! DA BIG DAWG

  • Takibakira T. Harding

    It is people like you that need to be locked up because you are a prime example of racism in the community. You are stereo typing individuals with getting to know that person. You do not know what happened because you were not there and cannot pass judgement on the situation Kenneth L. King was shot and murdered by Macus Tafoya ex-officer of the Fresno Police department. The same thing that happened to this person happened to him so don’t tell me that it was both of there fault. You have to look at the facts and evidence but in these cases you are dealing with dirty cops that feel like just because they have a badge they can kill and shoot anyone they choose. Don’t tell me that you are so stupid that you think like. I am going to pray for you that you gain a heart because what you just said does not make any sense!

  • Sad Girl

    I know Angelo personally he was a good friend of mine. He is a good man just misunderstood and made out to be hated and feared by the media. Just because people choose the life of a gang dose not make them bad people. Angelo has a heart of gold and his spirit can not be broken not even by the bullet that hit him or the unjust beatings. I will forever have love for him he is a good man, brother, father and son. And Angelo if you read this smile and think of the song “Must Be Nice” that song will always make me think of you. I hope your doing ok and holding your head high be strong and know my tia loves you always and misses you lots. Don’t forget me 

  • Does not matter!

    I’m sure there is two sides to every story ! But I do think that the PD does panic when it comes to gang members ! And by posting comments that say you would of done the same to him might get you killed if you don’t know the Fernandez family than don’t judge them . Yes Angelo is a gang member and does live life day by day but that does not give the PD the right to shoot an unarmed man ! I know the family and they are generally good people. Let’s try to help out our local gang members on becoming something better and doing something good in there life’s !! Killing them is not the answer ! God gives every one second chance and so should we ! And to BIG DAWG !!! Don’t let those comments get the best of you . Me and you andvur family go way back and share a big connection 😉 stay strong keep UR head up and try to move FOWARD !!! Revenge is not the answer !!!

  • Amber

    I LOVE YOU ANGELO’STAY SOLID BOY’ <3AMBER'

  • Vivi Anne Weiss

    It is such a crying shame that these people support criminals, gang members, thugs, and other forms of riff raff. That’s what makes Fresno look so darn awful. I remember hearing stories about what a good, wholesome American city Fresno once was. Time for some tough justice!!! You go Fresno PD 🙂 The decent & righteous citizens of Fresno have your back!!

  • Rudy Razo Chavez

    Well, here we go again, and again, and again: and where it stops no body seems to know?

    Fresno, my place of birth, is simply a metaphor for what has happened, and for what continues to happen across this great land called America, and also for what happens in other countries as well, where civil/human rights are ignored and authorities such as the FPD,and their minions, police chiefs, included, engage in violations and abuse of power and the trust they are supposed to have.

    And, also, poverty creates gangs, and we shouldn’t condone the poverty that largely engenders gangs and gang culture.

    Finally, the question that others have asked in this situation: Who do you call when the gang wears blue, and drives cars with he logo: TO Serve and Protect?

  • Mike Rhodes

    I visited Angelo Fernandez in Pleasant Valley State Prison today. PVSP is near Coalinga. The good news is that he is getting out in 5 months. The bad news is that his ability to legally challenge the City of Fresno for the incident described in the article above does not look good. The police shot him in the back, he was put in prison, and will not get his day in court to hold the officer involved accountable. That said, it was good to see Angelo. He is healthy and looking forward to starting a new life when he gets released in January 2015.

  • In the big picture it is and has always been control of the people.In every governmental institution the ultimate goal of it the ultimate agenda is pure and total control of its people.When we have so many atrocities in question and they are not challenged,we give power to the government. I could name so many cases of police brutality that either goes unchallenged or where the police is not at fault,even when you have positive proof such as film.Take the case of Rodney king we all saw him being beaten up while he was defenseless on the floor,yet the system was able to convince the jury that what they were seeing was an illusion.that every time he was trying to get up he was actually trying to attack the officers…really……A the list goes on and on of so many other instances where the police get off without what so ever as probation,or one day in jail,oh no after all what kind of message would they be sending to their force.Now lm not saying that all the police are bad or corrupt the majority are fine outstanding people as well as good police,however when a few are rogue or bad they seem to turn their heads the other way.This is the.real problem they don’t get rid of the bad apples before the spoil the rest of the apples,in turn making the police force look bad.that’s why as bad as some people may think of guns they are still essential to our survival.All you have to do is look at our neighbors down south and you start to understand why we need gun not only to protect ourselves from bad people but from the government itself. Mexico wasn’t all ways this way run amouk of all the car tells and corruption but the poor people can’t even protect themselves because the government took the only means of protecting themselves.so now they are being slautered by the thousands, so you think that could never happen here,well wake up its all ready in its infancy.The government had been trying to take our guns for a long time now,but they need the majority of the people to agree with them so they create situations so appalling as to make its citizens cringe with hate,disgust and horror.In order to get an agenda you create a situation where it will target your purpose.The gov.wants to take our guns away so they created columbine in order to shock the people into seeming the horror that guns create.How funny that right after that laws were in acted that took so many guns out of circulation,it made it unlawful to own several types of weapons that had been legal just months before.When columbine was over and they could do no more they created sandy hook.they realized that the murder of our teens had not been enough to completely to shock into getting rid of our gun so they went lower and created sandy hook.They believed that by getting to the core of ourhearts our children,that now the people would surely want the guns gone.And sure enough right after the sandy hook incident they went after our guns again getting rid of more lethal so called weapons how lethal can one bullet by compared to another bullet.When I say created I mean that.the powers that be had a hand in orchestrating the situations in columbine and sandy hook and so many other instances Never close your eyes to the reality that surrounds you but more important never close you mind to the things right in front of you.Never live close minded because if you do you are playing right into the gov.way.They say that we live in a free country but this country had finally figured it out.how to controlled its people but at the same time calling this a free country.We are shackeled by laws upon laws to keep us in their place ,as long ad you don’t step or break any of their rules you can call yourself free.But be informed just look up all the new laws that are in acted every year that by the way we never hear about until we break it,and my country had the audacity to call itself a free country a country of its people a country for its people but wait till you become part of the equation,only then will you believe that what I have said is trure.In closing all I have to say is stay vigalant always live with an open heart and mind,never say never……never say this could never happen here not in this great country of ours called THE UNITED STATES OF OF AMERICA….

  • Queen of Hearts

    To people above like Vivi with all your negative talk and being so judgemental towards people you really need to know it’s not good to believe everything you hear in life. Yes some things might be true, but then again it could be as fake as the person who told you!! You see I know the Fernandez boys and they come from a great home. They have big hearts and will help anyone if they can. Yes Angelo has tattoos n to some might look intimidating, but Kat Von D has more than him but would this officer shot at her??? No instead he’d probably try n flirt. It just pisses me off that so much police violence has been occurring more n more! You see having a badge does not make someone better than another . I know not one person is perfect in life . We all have flaws n make mistakes. Everyone even police officers. So does that make us bad people? No it makes us human. Yes some people are gang members or ex gang members in life , but that doesn’t make them bad people like media says. Just because fresno pd has it out for bulldog gang members to do away with them all, does not give cops the right to do crap like this! I know everyone at some point in life makes mistakes or bad choices but I also believe they have the right to change for the better if they chose to. But with people like these who put them down and make them out to be animals and say they belong locked up or killed by cops you people need to remember it could be your own son or daughter that are in these shoes one day. Don’t say no not my Billy Bob or not my amy sue !!! Cause like I said before everyone makes bad choices at some point. Even kids from good homes , rich families, poor families it doesn’t matter. But doesn’t make them bad people or deserving to be mistreated in life. So all u people who chose to speak foul on Angelo without knowing actual true facts of who he is . Please line up I will be glad to B $#% h Slap each and Everyone of u!!! Angelo you know i got love for you and your family . Don’t let negative people get to you once you come home. Remember many talk the talk , but few can walk the walk! With no hesitation when me n my kids needed you just before this happened, you jumped n did what you could for us. No hesitation at all. N I thanked you from the bottom of my heart n forever will be grateful. You ever need anything I’m here . That’s automatic! Much love …..Queen L♡