FRESNO, Calif. — A police officer frantically screamed into his radio for help, telling dispatchers he had been shot and was bleeding in the struggle and gunfight that left two officers wounded and a suspect dead.
Those and other details were slowly emerging Tuesday as the two officers lay recovering in a hospital, though authorities were still withholding much of the story.
They said that the officers did not know the man had been involved in a very similar struggle with sheriff’s deputies a month ago when they first arrived at the apartment in the in the small central California farming community of Los Banos (BAHN’-ohs).
The man’s teenage son had called 911 and summoned police, and he, the man’s estranged wife and four other children huddled in a nearby room during the struggle and gunfight.
In the earlier struggle six months ago, deputies wrestled the combative man to the ground. Days later, his wife took out a restraining order, according to court documents that also say he had made violent threats.
The second encounter unfolded at dawn when authorities received a 911 emergency call that Norberto Reyes, 39, had broken into the apartment through a window.
“The son just wanted police there, wanted help,” Los Banos Police Cmdr. Ray Reyna said. “The father did not live there — was not wanted there.”
The first officer met the son outside the apartment, and they went inside. The officer found Reyes in the kitchen near the front door and asked him to leave the apartment. Reyes refused, and the situation quickly deteriorated into a physical confrontation, officials said.
The officer used his stun gun to subdue Reyes, but he pulled the metal probes it fired out of his body and fought the officer. The second officer arrived and tried to help restrain Reyes. Shots then erupted in the apartment, hitting both officers and the suspect, police said.
“I’ve been hit… I’m bleeding,” one officer shouted into his radio, calling for more help, according to KMPH-TV in Fresno (http://bit.ly/2vfGfw6 ).
It’s unclear at what moment the second officer arrived.
All were airlifted to Modesto-area hospitals, where Reyes died.
One of the injured officers, a six-year veteran, was shot in the head, torso and lower leg Monday, Los Banos Police Chief Gary Brizzee said. The other officer, who joined the force a year ago, was shot in the torso.
Police described their conditions as good and fair. Both are expected to survive. Their names were not released.
Reyna would not say if the suspect fired his own gun or managed to wrest away one of the officers’ weapons.
Neighbor Esmeralda Cervantes said she heard the yelling and gunfire and hid in a closet with her children.
A bullet entered her apartment and ricocheted off a wall, landing on the kitchen table, Cervantes said. She comforted Reyes’ family in her apartment all day as crime scene investigators worked outside, Cervantes said.
“They got the news that their dad just passed away and they’re not taking it so easy,” she told the Merced Sun-Star (http://bit.ly/2uRxbwq ).
Court documents showed that Reyes had a history of alleged drug use and violence, the newspaper reported.
One of the deputies in the earlier encounter, Sgt. Mark Taylor of the Merced County Sheriff’s Office, said Reyes “did not want to do what he was told. He would talk to us. Sometimes he wouldn’t make sense.”
“He was obviously troubled,” Taylor said.