The Fresno Police Department has been unable to locate a suspect who barricaded himself inside a grocery store overnight.
Police Chief Paco Balderrama was at the Save Mart at First and Nees avenues around 10:15 a.m. Friday to give an update on the incident that began Thursday night with a Fresno County deputy firing shots at the suspect in a car at the River Park shopping center. The driver then fled to the grocery store, about 1 1/2 miles away.
Balderrama said various searches of the building had been done — with K-9s and drones, and physical searches — but so far the suspect had not been found.
“It’s a difficult place to search, because it is a big grocery store,” Balderrama said. “There are a lot of hiding holes. ... It’s not a typical or easy place to search.”
There is evidence inside, Balderrama said, that the suspect was there, including clothing and footprints going back and forth. The suspect, Balderrama added, at one point reportedly gained access to a different pair of shoes.
The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office was taking over operations with its SWAT team and resuming the search.
Classes at nearby Kastner Intermediate School were canceled for the day due to the incident, Clovis Unified reported around 10:45 a.m.
Around 12:15 p.m., a Fresno Fire Department truck arrived and the crew brought out a large ladder at the back of the store.
Balderrama said SWAT members would be going up to get better access to the roof to search.
How Fresno Save Mart standoff started
The sheriff’s office late Thursday night gave an account of the beginning of the incident.
It started outside the Macy’s at River Park around 7 p.m. when an off-duty deputy saw a car matching the description of one allegedly used in a prior crime.
The deputy contacted the sheriff’s office and guided on-duty deputies to the scene where the car was parked.
The department had recently distributed a description of the car and suspects involved in an unsolved home burglary in which guns were taken.
Three people matching those descriptions came out of the Macy’s and got into the car. When ordered by the off-duty deputy to stop, a man and a woman got out and ran back in while the driver remained. The two who fled were taken into custody in Macy’s by a deputy.
Outside, the deputy attempted to get the driver to stop the car, but the suspect began ramming vehicles and the deputy fired. It’s not known how many shots the off-duty officer fired but at least one bullet struck the suspect’s front window on the driver’s side.
The suspect escaped and fled to the Save Mart at First and Nees, about 1 1/2 miles from the Macy’s.
Authorities believed the suspect was by himself in the store after employees and customers eventually fled. It was not known if the suspect was armed, though law enforcement was treating the situation as if he were.