Unfortunately, over the past weekend, the Fresno County Jail became the latest witness to just how well gun control is working in California.
Officers Juanita Davila, 51, and Toamalama Scanlan, 40, remain in critical condition after they were shot inside the facility Saturday. Sheriff Margaret Mims said an armed felon, identified as 37-year-old Thong Vang, entered the lobby of the main jail in downtown Fresno around 8:30 a.m., cut to the head of the line and demanded to see someone.
After Davila and Scanlan directed Vang to take a seat, witnesses said he began to display erratic behavior, pacing back and forth and eventually initiating an altercation with the two officers. During the struggle, Vang drew a gun and shot each officer one time, wounding both officers in the neck and head area, Mims said.
“The suspect dropped his weapon and was held at gunpoint while other deputies rescued the two injured correctional officers by dragging them out of the lobby to ambulances waiting outside,” the Sheriff’s Office said.
“It is obviously a difficult time for all of us, especially for the family members of officers Scanlan and Davila. Many have asked if any immediate changes will be made at the jail in terms of security provisions. The answer is no, not at this time,” jail spokesman Tony Botti said Sunday.
More than a dozen people, including children, were in the lobby and witnessed the officers’ being shot before they were rescued by a sheriff’s sergeant and a lieutenant, who engaged in a gunfight with Vang for 40 seconds before he surrendered.
Currently, although visitors are not screened for weapons at the entrance to the jail lobbies, metal detectors are located inside the facility and visitors are screened prior to being allowed to visit inmates inside the jail. But on Monday, officials announced the incident has prompted them to add another layer of security.
“Since this happened, we’re going to have an armed officer with a weapon in all the lobbies,” Sgt. Isaac Torres, a correctional officer, said Monday.
After being treated for minor injuries, Vang was taken into custody and charged with attempted murder, possession of a firearm by a felon and bringing drugs in jail, court records show. Vang, who also has an immigration hold, is facing 110 years to life in prison if convicted.
Addressing Vang’s criminal history, the Sheriff’s Office said, “In 1998, he was sentenced to 19 years in prison on multiple rape charges involving teenagers aged 14 and under. He served 16 years of his time and was released on Sept. 4, 2014. He has not had any criminal violations until today.”