Fashion Fair violence, tragedy and a Trader Joe’s protest — Fresno’s rough start to 2021

Jan. 4—The New Year’s Eve weekend and early days of 2021 have been filled with violence and mayhem that has taken several lives in Fresno County.

The new year began violently in the aftermath of more than 70 homicides in 2020. It has been nearly 25 years since the last time Fresno saw so many deaths from violence — primarily gun violence.

With a busy few days, the Fresno County Coroner’s Office has not yet released many of the names of the victims.

The most recent killing was of a man fatally shot late Sunday night near a fire station in southeast Fresno, police said. The man described as being in his 30s 0r 40s was found about 10 p.m. in the area of Illinois Avenue and First Street.

Earlier in the day, about 1 a.m. Sunday, a 14-year-old identified by investigators as Breana Gomez was found shot to death near Maple and Sierra Madre avenues.

That intersection near Fresno State was also the location of a teenage boy found with multiple gunshot wounds to his upper body. He was in critical condition and taken to Community Regional Medical Center, according to police.

A man in his early 40s died Saturday after he was shot through the door of a motel room on Jensen Avenue near Highway 99 in south Fresno.

On New Year’s Day, two men were gunned down outside an apartment complex on East Olive Avenue west of Peach Avenue in the southeast part of town.

Fatal collisions

Nine people, which included seven children, were killed Friday in a fiery head-on collision on Highway 33 in western Fresno County, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The crash involved a woman traveling with seven children between the ages of 2 and 15 and a 28-year-old man traveling alone on the highway near Sutter Avenue west of Avenal, CHP said. There were only six restraints for the eight passengers.

The names of the woman and children have not been released by authorities. The man driving the 2013 Dodge that struck the 2007 Ford occupied by the children was identified as 28-year-old Daniel Luna of Avenal.

A gofundme account has been set up to aid the family. The account, set up by Reyna Verdin, had raised more than $63,000 as of Monday.

The coroner has not officially identified the victims who were in the 2007 Ford, but the gofundme page identified the woman who was traveling with the children as Gabriela Verdin. According to the page, the children who died were Brooke Pulido, Giada Pulido, Jonah Pulido, Mia Pulido, Daniella Ayala, Camila Ayala, and Anthony Ayala.

In a separate incident, a three-car crash at Palm and Bullard avenues killed four people on Dec. 27, according to police. The investigation is still pending, but officers said it appears one driver was speeding and ran a red light.

A gofundme for those victims set up by Councilman Mike Karbassi in partnership with The Fresno Center to help the families with funeral expenses met its $30,000 goal in under five days, according to Karbassi.

Other incidents

The Trader Joe’s market in Fresno closed early Saturday night after several protesters showed up as part of a campaign against requirements to wear masks inside stores during the global coronavirus pandemic.

One video posted on social media shows a bearded man without a mask confront a Trader Joe’s employee in front of the entrance doors that were closed. No arrests have been reported by police.

Later that day, someone fired shots inside Fashion Fair Mall, prompting a rush of people to flee the stores while others hid inside.

Fresno police confirmed the shooting stemmed from a confrontation between a man and a group of men Saturday afternoon. No one reported being struck by bullets, police said.

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