Police officer, 24, is shot and killed while on duty in small city outside Fresno
An on-duty Selma, Calif., police officer was fatally shot Tuesday while responding to a resident's concern, stunning many in the small city just southeast of Fresno.
Officer Gonzalo Carrasco Jr., 24, is the first officer to die in the line of duty in Selma, a majority-Latino city of fewer than 25,000, according to a statement from the Fresno County Sheriff's Office, which is investigating the killing. Carrasco had been at the Selma Police Department less than two years and was a father-to-be.
The man who investigators say fatally shot Carrasco has been arrested and is being held without bail.
About 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, Carrasco was flagged down by a woman worried about a "suspicious man" on her property in a neighborhood just west of Highway 99, according to the Sheriff's Office. Carrasco attempted to approach the man, but the man fired several shots at Carrasco, killing him.
The man, later identified as Nathaniel Dixon, 23, ran from the scene of the shooting. After a short search by police, Dixon was found about a mile away, and officers recovered a gun not far from where Dixon was detained, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Dixon, a Selma resident who deputies said has a significant criminal history that includes prison time, was booked into the Fresno County Jail on suspicion of murder, being a felon in possession of a gun and ammunition, and a probation violation. He is not eligible for bail because of the probation violation charge, deputies said.
Carrasco died at the hospital, officials said.
“I’m absolutely outraged,” Selma Police Chief Rudy Alcaraz said, according to the Fresno Bee. “I’m horrified right now. This is the worst-case scenario."
Carrasco joined the Selma Police Department in May 2021, after learning about the profession through the Explorer program — an opportunity for young adults to learn more about policing — at the Reedley Police Department, according to a statement from Fresno Dist. Atty. Lisa A. Smittcamp. He is the son of farmworkers and is survived by his parents, brother, sisters and girlfriend, who is pregnant with their child.
"While honorably serving his community today in Selma, California, he was shot and killed in cold blood," Smittcamp said. "It is a tragic day in the County of Fresno and the state of California."
Gov. Gavin Newsom's office said flags at the Capitol would be flown at half-staff in honor of Carrasco.
"Jennifer and I join all the family, friends and colleagues mourning the tragic loss of Officer Carrasco, who devoted his life to protecting his community," Newsom said in a statement. "His tremendous bravery, dedication and sacrifice will never be forgotten."
The Fresno Deputy Sheriff’s Assn. has established a memorial fund for Carrasco’s family.
The circumstances of the shooting death in the Central Valley sparked a political firestorm surrounding criminal justice policy — and who should be held responsible for keeping dangerous people off the streets.
Smittcamp, a Republican known for criticizing the governor and progressive criminal justice policies, placed the blame for Carrasco's death on Newsom and legislators who have supported laws that increase the amount of time people in prison can get taken off their sentences. She said Newsom and other lawmakers have "the blood of this officer on their hands."
Dixon had been sentenced to more than five years in prison last year but was released five months later on community supervision, Smittcamp said.
"If the prison system did an effective job of 'corrections and rehabilitation,' this would not be the case," Smittcamp said. People sentenced to prison "are released without significant punishment, rehabilitation programming or educational opportunities."
Newsom fired back at Smittcamp on Tuesday, telling her to "look in the mirror."
“She should blame herself," Newsom said when asked about Smittcamp's comments at a Wednesday news conference about the state's concealed-carry gun laws. “She has the prosecutorial discretion. ... I’m sick and tired of being lectured by her on public safety.”
Although Dixon was released from prison early, he was convicted of only two felonies — through a plea deal with prosecutors — despite facing nine felony charges and one misdemeanor after two 2020 arrests.
"The Fresno D.A. chose not to charge this suspect to the full extent of the law, which would have ensured that he spent decades in prison," said Brandon Richards, a spokesman for Newsom.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.