Gun shots were fired at an Oakdale police officer on Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 29 which resulted in a multi-agency dragnet and the eventual arrest of two suspects. No officers were hurt or struck by the gunfire and by the end of the evening, both suspects were in jail.
Around 5:10 p.m. police received a call of suspicious subjects near the area of the alley in the 400 block of Dodge Avenue, near Birdwell Street and Davitt Avenue. When officers arrived they found a sleeping bag wrapped around a shotgun. Officers continued to search the area and found two subjects walking on the 400 block of Church Avenue. As officers approached, one of the subjects fired a gun at one of the officers.
“When the officers spotted the subjects, one ran eastbound and the other west,” said Oakdale Police Chief Lester Jenkins. “The guy running east fired a shot at the officer.”
Jenkins further described the subjects as wearing “gang-type attire” in red.
Oakdale Police “locked down” the area to contain a perimeter to search for the subjects in the area of South Yosemite Avenue to West F Street.
Residents reported scores of police cars with lights and sirens converging on Oakdale streets as well as law enforcement helicopters using search lights overhead. Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, Modesto Police, Ceres Police, and California Highway Patrol units responded to the city to assist in the incident.
“There was an exaggerated response,” said Jenkins about the number of units that came into the city. “There was a breakdown in communications and one agency put out an officer was shot, which was not the case.”
Police set up a command post and positioned officers in strategic location throughout the city to contain the area, blocking off streets and access to houses by residents.
Oakdale High School was locked down and students for night courses at the facility were turned away as classes and an eighth grade parents night were cancelled due to the incident.
“I know it was an inconvenience to citizens, I apologize,” said Chief Jenkins. “But, it’s a necessity when dealing with armed suspects.”
Chief Jenkins said a Ceres police officer and canine located one of the suspects in a yard of Mann Court around 6:07 p.m. That suspect was identified as Eric Silva, 18, of Riverbank and is believed to be the suspect who fired the shot.
When arrested, Silva did not have a gun in his possession but officers located a discarded handgun in the area after his apprehension.
Police with assistance from the Modesto PD SWAT team went door-to-door into the evening to search and found the second suspect, James Fitzjarrell, 19, of Oakdale hiding in a backyard in the 100 block of West J Street.
As the investigation continued, there was word that a nearby house had been burglarized with firearms taken. Police recovered six rifles and two semi-automatic handguns discarded during their suspect search and confirmed they were taken in the burglary.
For further details, read the Feb. 6 edition of The Leader.