FRESNO (AP) — An armed deputy and an armed correctional officer have been stationed in the lobby of the central California jail where an ex-convict opened fire and critically wounded two unarmed officers, a sheriff’s spokesman said Monday.
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims assigned the armed officers in response to Saturday’s shooting of officers Juanita Davila, 51, and Toamalama Scanlan, 40, spokesman Tony Botti said.
Scanlan remained in critical condition and Davila was critical, but stable, he said.
Unarmed officers previously guarded the facility and visitors went through metal detectors leading to secure areas. Visiting hours resumed Sunday evening when the Fresno County jail lobby reopened.
Thong Vang, 37, is accused of shooting the officers in the head and neck areas during a struggle and has been booked into the same jail where the shootings took place on suspicion of attempted murder, possessing a handgun as a felon and bringing drugs into a jail.
He was being held without bail because both parole and immigration holds were placed on him, jail records showed.
Vang was released from prison in 2014 after serving 16 years for raping three girls aged 14 and under, Mims said. He had no criminal violations since his release.
Botti said he didn’t know if Vang had an attorney who could comment on his behalf.
Scanlan, who has 10 years of experience, and Davila, an 18-year veteran, approached Vang after he tried to cut to the front of the visitors’ line and began pacing near a secure area of the jail.
The officers were trying to get him to sit down when shots rang out. About 15 people, including small children, ran to safety.
Officers inside the jail ran to the lobby, where a lieutenant shot at Vang, who returned fire, Botti said. No one was hit.
Officers tried to subdue Vang with a stun gun, but he ran to the hallway of the jail records area, authorities said. When confronted by sheriff’s deputies and a Fresno police officer, Vang dropped his weapon and told authorities he wanted to be arrested, Botti said.
The injured officers were dragged out of the lobby and taken to the hospital to undergo surgery. Vang was taken to the hospital for minor scrapes and cuts.
Eulalio Gomez, president of the Fresno County Public Safety Association, said he had worked with Scanlan in an anti-gang unit.
“He’s a warrior,” Gomez told the Fresno Bee. “He’s the first guy to be there when there’s an emergency and the first guy to be there at home when you need him.”
Gomez said Scanlan’s family is coming from American Samoa, where he was raised, to be by his side.
Davila has two daughers in college and her mother is at her bedside, Gomez said. He said Davila is very religious and always offering prayers for her fellow officers.
“She will always give you words of encouragement,” Gomez said. “She has a heart of gold.”