The incident happened the afternoon of Sept. 25. The Fresno Police Department and California Highway Patrol received reports of large crowds blocking traffic a few miles outside of downtown Fresno, according to the police department.
A California Highway Patrol officer, who was first on scene, spotted a reckless driver and got out of his vehicle to make a traffic stop, the police department said. Then, people began yelling at the driver to leave. The driver sped away, and the officer went back to his vehicle to chase him. That’s when a crowd of about 30 to 40 surrounded the officer’s sport-utility vehicle.
Several people can be seen violently kicking the sides of the SUV while others recorded the incident with their phones.
The officer, whose name was not released, was able to drive away unharmed.
Over the past week, the police department has posted to its Facebook page several still photos taken from videos of the attack.
Three men, Federico Gonzalez, 20; Gabriel Deanda, 18; and Milton Rodriguez, 29, have been arrested in connection with the incident, according to media reports.
Rodriguez was the driver whom the officer tried to pull over, the Fresno Bee reported. The officer’s dash camera and a license plate reader were able to collect information about the Chevrolet Tahoe that Rodriguez was driving, according to the paper.
One of the suspects was arrested after his fingerprints were traced from the officer’s SUV, according to media reports. One of them also admitted to investigators that he was upset with the California Highway Patrol for towing his car.
Both Gonzalez and Deanda are members of the Bulldog gang, the Fresno Bee reported.
The attack resulted in about $12,000 worth of damage to the patrol car, which had several dents and shattered windows.
Police are still looking for more suspects, including Guadalupe Gonzalez, 19, and a still-unidentified man who, police said, was wearing a red baseball cap and tried to throw what appeared to be a large rock at the officer.
“We’re going to identify as many people as possible that were involved in this incident and we’re going to arrest them,” Dyer told ABC affiliate KFSN-TV. “We’ll work with the DA’s office to prosecute them and make sure they’re prosecuted on some serious felony charges.”
Dyer said that had the officer gotten out of his car when the crowd surrounded him, “I’m not sure what would’ve happened.”
Investigators think that some of the suspects came from the Bay Area, but that a majority are from Fresno in California’s Central Valley. Dyer told reporters that the attack occurred during a street-racing event.
The Washington Post was unable to reach someone from the police department or the California Highway Patrol on Sunday.
The incident comes at a tense time for law enforcement in the country.
Just a few days before the attack on the officer, the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, who is black, prompted riots in Charlotte and repeated calls for authorities to release video footage of the shooting. The footage was later released, but it did not show whether Scott was armed.
In Fresno, the shooting death of Dylan Noble in June prompted its own angry demonstrations. A vigil for the 19-year-old, who is white, featured Confederate flags and a “White Lives Matter” sign. Body-camera footage showed officers fatally shooting the unarmed 19-year-old, who is seen hiding his hands behind his back and disobeying officers’ commands.
According to The Washington Post’s database, police fatally shot 991 people in 2015 and 719 this year. Of those shot this year, 43 were unarmed, while nearly 400 had a gun.
Speaking at a news conference Friday, Dyer, the Fresno police chief, said there appears to be a willingness from some people to attack police officers.
“We know what the environment is across the nation today with protests, riots and police officers being attacked and a lot of the criticism that law enforcement faces,” Dyer said, according to the Fresno Bee. “I believe this is a symptom of that.”