FRESNO — A Fresno police officer shot a carjacking suspect just after midnight Wednesday near Fashion Fair Mall.
Two Fresno police officers attempted to pull over a black Ford Focus after they ran the plates and discovered it had been reported stolen early Tuesday. Officers spotted the Focus making an eastbound exit onto Shaw Avenue on Highway 41. The previous day’s carjacking had involved a shotgun, according to the police.
The driver of the Focus, identified as 20-year-old Christopher Esparza, failed to pull over. Instead he ran the stolen vehicle into a flowerbed in the Fashion Fair parking lot. Esparza then exited his vehicle and ran across First Street, attempting to jump over a chain-link fence in the median, said police Chief Jerry Dyer.
A police officer chasing after Esparza thought the suspect was reaching for a weapon and fired four shots, all of which hit Esparza in the leg.
“When the officers were pursuing this suspect in the vehicle, they were fully aware that the vehicle had been taken in a carjacking the previous night,” Dyer said. “They were aware that the suspect had been armed with a shotgun. As the officer pursued the suspect on foot, he believed in fact that the suspect was armed and was reaching for a firearm at that time when he fired.”
A weapon was not found on Esparza or in the vehicle.
The passenger in the stolen vehicle, 20-year-old Gerrick Franklin, also attempted to run from police, but was quickly apprehended, Dyer said.
The carjacking victim identified both Franklin and Esparza as the men who stole his car. He said the suspects made him kneel and pointed a shotgun at him, according to Dyer.
Esparza was taken to Community Regional Medical Center and is in stable condition. Dyer said that Esparza, a Bulldog gang member with a criminal record, was wearing a bulletproof vest when he was shot.