FRESNO (AP) — A parolee who killed two people and wounded two others on Tuesday at a California chicken processing plant where he worked moved methodically between his first three victims, putting a handgun against their head or neck before pulling the trigger, police said.
Lawrence Jones shot 32-year-old Fatima Lopez in the back as she tried to flee then put the gun to the head of Estevan Catano and pulled the trigger but was out of bullets, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said.
Jones, 42, then went outside the Valley Protein plant, where he reloaded his gun, shot himself and died later at a hospital, the chief said.
The victims inside the plant did not hear the shooter because it was loud and at least some of them wore noise protectors, Dyer said.
"He had opportunity to shoot other co-workers that were in the business at this time, but he chose not to," Dyer said. "He walked around them in order to get very close to the intended targets, place the gun very close and fire a round."
Salvador Diaz, 32, was pronounced dead at the scene, and Manuel Verdin, 34, died later at a hospital. Arnulfo Conrriguez, 28, was in critical condition, and Lopez was expected to be released later from a hospital, Dyer said.
Police said they didn't know what prompted the attack by Jones midway through his shift at the plant, although other workers told police he did not appear to be himself when he arrived at the plant for work.
"There was something that must have provoked this incident, perhaps that occurred today, or maybe was building up to today," Dyer said soon after the attack.
Police said they found 24 rounds of .357 caliber ammunition — the type used in the shooting — and 21 rounds of .38 caliber ammunition at Jones' apartment.
Jones arrived at work on a bike just before 5 a.m. About three-and-a-half hours into his shift, he pulled out the handgun and began firing, Dyer said.
About 30 employees witnessed the shooting, and there were a total of about 65 people at work when the gunfire started, police said.
The company was established in 2005, according to online business records. A call to the company went to a voicemail recording that said "due to an emergency we are closed for the day."
A woman who answered the phone at a listing for CEO Durbin Breckenridge and identified herself as his wife said she would pass a phone message to him.
News media and onlookers were kept several blocks from the plant in the morning, as police used yellow tape to block access. Dozens of officers swarmed the area.
Joe Martinez, 45, told the Fresno Bee that he was in the drive-thru lane of a fast-food restaurant when he heard a loud pop that he initially thought was a car backfiring.
Then he looked to the north and saw a man on the ground with two people standing over him.
"It's the last thing you expect to see," Martinez said. "It's very upsetting."