Two down and one to go
Police continue their search for shooting suspect
John Rieping/The Madera Tribune
Madera Police Chief Steve Frazier updates local and national media about an arrest of two of three suspects (displayed from left, Serena Arroyo, James Cruz and Thomas Garcia) in a recent case involving shooting at a cop and civilian passenger during a car chase. Beside him stand Madera and Fresno law enforcement, Madera city councilmen and shooting victim Yesica Valencia.
Two suspects have been arrested and arraigned, and one is still on the loose, in connection with a shooting directed at a Madera police officer, and a civilian ride-along accompanying him in his patrol car.
At a press conference at Wednesday, Madera police Chief Steve Frazier announced the capture of Serena Arroyo, 26, and Thomas Matthew Garcia, 33, who were arrested Monday evening, and Tuesday morning.
“At our press conference on Monday, I talked about having people in custody by the end of the week. I probably upset some of my folks doing that, SIU and detectives, because that kind of put a significant burden on them,” Frazier said. “But I want to tell you that the people that serve, the officers that serve the city of Madera have stepped up, done their job, and I want to give credit to our investigations, and our Special Investigations Unit. We have two in custody.”
One suspect, James Cruz, 42, remains at large. Both he and Thomas Garcia are members of a Fresno gang.
Madera Police Officer Julian Garcia had attempted to pull Cruz, Arroyo, and Thomas over 4:35 a.m. Sunday, after their Mazda SUV reportedly committed a traffic violation.
According to Madera Police Det. Sgt. Johnnie Smith, the Mazda had been reported stolen. “The vehicle fled north, and the officer, seeing that the vehicle was failing to yield to his lights, initiated a pursuit (with) lights and sirens,” said Smith. “The vehicle continued to blow through stop signs, and ended up north of Sunset Avenue.”
It was at this point that Thomas Garcia reportedly opened fire, shooting out the window of the Mazda in order to do so.
Yesica Valencia, the ride-along in the squad car, can be heard in the dashcam saying: “He has a gun, oh no!,” while Officer Garcia informs dispatch that shots were fired.
As the Mazda turned onto Lighthouse Drive, Thomas reportedly fired nine more rounds at the patrol car.
As Garcia continued his chase, four more shots were fired from the Mazda, three of which struck the patrol car. Two struck the windshield, with one going high and getting lodged into the top of the car, while the other passed just inches by where Valencia was sitting, and shattered the rear window. A third round punctured one of the patrol car’s tires, disabling the vehicle.
Garcia was uninjured, while Valencia suffered minor scratches from the broken glass.
“You know something crazy might happen,” Valencia said of the ride-along on ABC 30 News. “But I never thought it would happen to me.”
Valencia is part of the Madera Police Department’s Citizen’s Academy, a program aimed at educating members of the community on the workings and methods of law enforcement. Valencia has since been commended by police for her handling of the situation, and has expressed that, despite the attempt on her life, she has no regrets about her enrollment.
Police later found the Mazda on Krest Street, a few blocks from where Garcia last saw it. Inside, police reportedly found the AR-15-style pistol that was used in the attack, along with drugs, which according to Smith, appeared to be methamphetamine. At least one of the suspects tested positive for this drug, Frazier said.
Evidence left in the abandoned vehicle led Madera Police to name Arroyo, Cruz, and Thomas Garcia as suspects. Arroyo was arrested first, on Monday evening, in Fresno by officers with the Special Investigations Unit.
“There was a lot of evidence left in the suspect’s vehicle, as far as phones, and different things, different articles left in the vehicle, and we just followed up on the evidence that was left behind,” Smith said. “And it led us to (her).”
Thomas Garcia, also in Fresno, was picked up by the U.S. Marshals at his parents’ apartment at 4640 N. Marty Ave.
“They called us, and offered their assistance,” Smith said. “And based on the fact that we had several places to do surveillance on, and they were watching one of the locations in Fresno.”
According to Smith, Madera police expect to apprehend Cruz shortly.