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Indybay Feature
Fresno Police Kill 2 Unarmed Men this Week
by Mike Rhodes (editor [at]
Wednesday Oct 28th, 2009 7:10 PM
The Fresno police have killed 3 unarmed men in the last 5 weeks. Two of them were killed this week (today and yesterday). A lot of people think the police are out of control, some are demanding an Independent Police Auditor, and others think a more active Copwatch program will help. The ACLU is considering asking the Department of Justice to investigate the situation. Photo below: Steven Vargas
Fresno Police officers shot and killed John Cooper in northwest Fresno today. According to Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer, Cooper called 911 and said he would "shoot the first cop I see.” Dyer said the man called the police a second time and said he wanted to kill himself. Officers arrived at Marks and Santa Ana Avenues at a little after 10 a.m. They saw Cooper, who had what appeared to be a gun pointed to his head, according to Dyer. Dyer said Cooper pointed what turned out to be a toy gun at the officers and they opened fire.

Yesterday, Fresno police officers killed 32 year old Steven Vargas of Fresno. Vargas was involved in a car accident on McKinley avenue in central Fresno. An officer arrived on the scene and ordered Vargas out of his car. When he refused, the officer, whose name the FPD will not release, opened fire killing Vargas. No weapon was found in either incident.

Police chief Dyer said yesterday that Vargas was armed, that he was on parole, and possibly had a warrant out for his arrest. In a press release issued today, the Fresno County Sheriff’s department said that Vargas did not have a weapon and was not on parole. The Sheriff’s department is investigating because the incident happened on a county island. Nothing more has been said about Dyer’s allegation of an outstanding warrant.

On September 23, Lonnie Graham was shot to death by Fresno police officers when he stepped out of a house with a cell phone in his hand. The officers involved said they feared for their lives. Graham was found to be un-armed. At a press conference after that shooting, Dyer said Graham was a gang member, that someone might have seen him armed recently, and that he had an extensive criminal record.

Background on the Lonnie Graham incident is here:

Groups in Fresno working on Police Accountability:

American Civil Liberties Association (ACLU)
Greater Fresno Area Chapter of Northern California
4974 N Fresno St., #185
Fresno, CA 93726-0317
simonaclu [at]

Central California Criminal Justice Committee
Post Office Box 4555
Fresno, CA 93744
(559) 229-9807

Fresno Copwatch
xyfloyd [at]

also, see:
Will We Have Effective Police Oversight in Fresno?

§Lonnie Graham
by Mike Rhodes Wednesday Oct 28th, 2009 7:10 PM

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by stop killer cops!
Wednesday Oct 28th, 2009 7:36 PM
The first-degree manslaughter charge filed Monday against Everett police officer Troy Meade is unprecedented in Snohomish County history.

Meade, an 11-year veteran, is accused of recklessly causing the death of Niles Meservey, 51. The officer fatally shot Meservey after he refused to get out of his car.
Vargas pointed a gun at the police officers...have you seen how realistic toy guns look like today? And you're surprised that the police shot the guy? If you don't understand this then you don't have a whole lot of credibility with me. These incidents unfold in seconds...sometimes in difficult to see low light situations....the police are not required under the law to wait until someone shoots at them to determine if the gun is real...that's the law.....supreme court...what's not to's sad...but why is it an outrage? Please explain it to me....and to the others that lurk on theses boards.....Ben.
by Mike Rhodes (editor [at]
Saturday Oct 31st, 2009 8:48 AM
Ben, in his comment above, claims to not understand why anyone would be bothered by the police shooting someone who is unarmed. He cites the case, in the story also above, where Fresno police officers shot a man with a toy gun. Briefly, here is why I have a problem with this particular officer involved shooting - the man who was killed was obviously having an episode in which he was distraught, probably even suicidal. He called 911 for help saying he was going to shoot the first police officer that arrived and later calling again saying he was suicidal. There are many different ways to deal with this situation. Sending police officers out there is one option. That decision ended with John Cooper being killed. But, what if the police had dispatched someone that has the ability to talk with a person who is depressed or suicidal? That is an option too. There are professionals who deal with people who are a danger to themselves and/or others and the encounter ends with nobody being shot. What I object to here is that the police in Fresno are very aggressive and confrontational. This approach ends up with a lot of people being unnecessarily being killed and injured. We can do better!

Ben did not mention the other two cases, but I will. In the Lonnie Graham case, the police lured this young man out of his house. They (the police) were waiting for him when he came out. Graham had a cell phone in his hand. The police say they thought it was a gun and the killed him.

The third case the article above mentions is the police shooting of Steven Vargas. Vargas got into an auto accident. I don’t know why the accident happened, but his car ended up in the driveway of a house. His car had hit the other car at that house. A witness flagged down an officer and it appears that they told the officer that the guy in the car had a gun or a knife. The officer demanded that Vargas get out of the car. For whatever reason (maybe he was stuck in the car, maybe he had a seizure, or was drunk), Vargas did not get out. The officer opened fire and killed him. I can see no justifiable reason why this young man was shot to death.

What is needed, in my opinion, is an independent investigation to determine if the officers involved in all of the cases above were justified in taking a life. I don’t think that is too much to ask. In addition, it was reveled in a story in The Fresno Bee two days ago that “(Fresno police chief) Dyer said the department has no policy that defines when an officer should shoot a suspect. The decision to shoot is based on both real and perceived threats, he said. ‘If they feel their life or the life of another person is in danger, that’s the standard for using deadly force,’ Dyer said. ‘It’s the perceived threat that the officer makes the decision on, not the real threat that’s shown after the fact.’”

I find it pretty amazing that the Fresno police chief is claiming that they have no written policy on when an officer can use deadly force. If you follow that logic to its conclusion, then the police can shoot and kill you for any reason and claim they felt their life was in danger. Someone walks out of the house with a cell phone in their hands? They can shoot and kill you. A person in an auto accident does not get out of the vehicle quickly enough? They get shot and killed. A person writes an article critical of police action? Well. . . you get my point.
by jc
Monday Nov 2nd, 2009 8:50 AM
...and after the officer kills you for no apparent reason, Chief Dyer will instantly villify you and tell the world about how you are on parole, and how you are an ex-con and a danger to society--even if none of these things are actually true as was the case with Vargas.
by Mike Rhodes (editor [at]
Thursday Nov 5th, 2009 10:19 PM
One of the FPD officers who was involved in the shooting of John Cooper was involved in a previous incident. Officer Scott Payn is the same officer who was caught on video beating Glen Beaty (February 2008). Glenn, who was homeless, was sleeping under a tree until two officers woke him up, and ended up beating him. One officer held his hands behind his back while the other one beat him in his face. You can see more information about that incident here: . A press release from the FPD, identifying the officers involved in the John Cooper incident, is being uploaded with this comment.
by Sophia
Friday Nov 13th, 2009 8:17 PM
Read the store right. Where did it say Vargas had a real or fake gun. Learn and read the facts right before you post.
Sunday Nov 22nd, 2009 8:45 PM
I think it was an outrage..cops these days fucking playing God..Taking lives without consideration for the innocent children watching a few feet away, or even stopped to consider their saftey.....I know the way they handle shit was nothing compared to what they were trained for..So what the fuck...cause in the end nothing can bring these loved ones back...And because of that I'm always going to be RIDING DIRTY...
Culpepper Virginia-Officer Danny Harmon Wright

Patricia Cook was wanted for reckless driving and parking violation
Patricia Cook and Danny Wright became Argumentative
Danny Wright shot her 5 times
Danny Wright had a clean record until then
Danny Wright claimed that Patricia Cook was trying to reach for the officer's gun
Police Chief launched their own investigation and forensics investigators to find out what happened
Forensics disproved Danny Wright's story
Danny was fired and charged with manslaughter
Danny was found guilty and is serving 3 years in prison

Fresno California-Sgt. Mike Palamino
Steven Vargas was driving drunk on the way home
He crashed in one of his other cars
Sgt. Mike Palomino shows up to his house
Sgt. Mike Palomino orders Vargas out of the car
when Vargas didn't listen, Sgt. Mike Palomino fired 9+ times
All doors closed, all windows shut
Palomino claims that Vargas was acting crazy and he was bending down trying to reach for the gun
Police Chief Jerry Dyer simply not only bought that claim like a fucking idiot, he made bad comments about Vargas which were not true (Parole, Armed)
Jerry Dyer has a heart to jump at his chance to defend Palomino
Vargas family's attorney had to hire their OWN forensic investigators to investigate
Forensics disproved Palomino's story
In the lawsuit, the Jury ruled Palmino was NOT justified in the shooting AFTER ALL
Vargas family won $1300000 from the city of fresno.
Despite Palomino being involved in the 6th shooting, some ruled unjustified by a jury, he STILL GETS TO KEEP HIS JOB!!!!!!

by S Takier
Monday Jul 1st, 2019 7:26 AM
I was under the impression that police officers receive extensive weapons training. Can alternate weapons be used? Such as dogs, bean bags, taser, a shot to the leg? Must a highly trained officer shoot a person 17 or more times? Isn't that over kill?
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