Tollhouse, CA – A Fresno County sheriff’s deputy was shot on Tuesday morning while responding to a call about a dispute between feuding neighbors, and police remain in a standoff with the gunman into the late afternoon.
The incident began at about 11:30 a.m. on July 2 when 49-year-old Fresno County Sheriff’s Deputy John Erickson responded to a home located in a remote, mountainous region, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims told reporters during a press conference outside the Community Regional Medical Center.
Sheriff Mims said police received a 911 call about shots fired in the area of Tollhouse, and Deputy Erickson was directed to a home on Quail Mountain Lane, KMPH reported.
The sheriff said the dispute was a civil disagreement between neighbors over property lines.
“As a result of that disagreement, there were shots fired from one of the parties,” she said.
Sheriff Mims said the suspect opened fire on the deputy as soon as he pulled onto the property and got out of his vehicle.
“When deputies arrived on scene, they started taking fire from what they described as rifle shots. And a deputy sheriff was in fact wounded as a result of this volley of gunshots,” she said.
Deputy Erickson returned fire, and a gun battle ensued that went on for a quite a while, according to the sheriff.
She said the deputy, an 11-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, had a civilian ride-along with him when he responded to the call.
The ride-along was a friend of the deputy and had been on police calls with him in the past.
The sheriff said he had been very helpful in providing information about what direction the shots were coming from.
“When he was wounded, [Deputy Erickson] went down outside his patrol car,” Sheriff Mims said. “A rescue operation had to take place with other deputies responding to that area to get him out.”
“I want to commend the deputy sheriffs,” the sheriff said. “There were four or five deputy sheriffs that carried him hundreds of yards in horrible, awful terrain. Hills, unsteady footing. There were able to get the deputy out and get him to the helicopter… they did that successfully but it took a long time.”
She said more than an hour passed between when Deputy Erickson was shot and when he was loaded into the California Highway Patrol (CHP) helicopter that airlifted him to the hospital.
His ride-along was not injured.
Sheriff Mims said that the deputy’s family was with him at the hospital.
She said Deputy Erickson was shot in the back of the right leg and the bullet broke his femur.
The sheriff said the deputy was headed into surgery but expected to recover.
Sheriff Mims said that when Deputy Erickson was being transported to the hospital he was yelling at the CHP medics not to cut off his new boots.
Deputies have responded to the same location for similar disagreements about property lines in the past but Sheriff Mims said the disputes were always civil in nature, the result of a property line arguments.
“We certainly were not confronted by gunfire last time we were there or we would have taken care of business,” she said.
The sheriff said she didn’t know if Deputy Erickson had ever responded to that location before Tuesday.
Sheriff Mims said the standoff with the gunman was ongoing.
“As far as the suspect, we have an idea of who he is however this is still a very dynamic ongoing situation up at the scene,” she told reporters. “SWAT is at the scene. We have armored vehicles at the scene. We have been in contact with the suspect.”
She did not release any information about the identity of the suspect and said police were “still engaged” with him.
The sheriff also said that one of the suspect’s family members was on the scene providing assistance to law enforcement.
“We believe he’s in the house – have a family member working with police to provide information,” she said.
Sheriff Mims said she didn’t know if the suspect was injured and that the only communication the gunman has had with police was via telephone.