Fresno man was taken into custody Saturday after shooting two correctional officers in the lobby of the Fresno County Jail. Thong Vang, 37, entered the jail lobby shortly after 8:30 a.m. Saturday, saying he wanted to visit someone and trying to get to the front of the line, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims told reporters. When he was ordered to wait his turn, Vang began to exhibit “bizarre behavior,” pacing back and forth around the lobby, Mims said.
During the confrontation that ensued, Vang pulled out a gun and shot correctional officers Juanita Davila and Toamalama Scanlan, neither of whom were armed, Mims said.
Another correctional officer fired several shots at Vang, who then retreated into a hallway before ultimately dropping his weapon and saying that he wanted to be arrested, Mims said. Vang, who had been previously convicted of rape, was held at gunpoint while the two injured officers were pulled out of the lobby to ambulances outside.
The wounded officers were taken to a regional medical center, where both were scheduled to undergo surgery. Each suffered a single gunshot “in the head and neck area,” the sheriff said.
Davila also suffered a broken jaw and was listed in critical but stable condition; Scanlan was in critical condition, Mims said Saturday afternoon.
Mims said Vang had cuts and scrapes and had been Tased at some point during the struggle, but he was not hit by any gunfire.
The Fresno parolee had been released two years ago after serving 16 years for rape with gang enhancements, the sheriff said, a conviction tied to a notorious case in which gang members kidnapped and raped three young girls. It is unclear who he was seeking to visit at the jail or whether he was planning to visit anyone.
“He will be held accountable for what he did,” the sheriff told reporters at a press conference Saturday.
In reaction to questions about security, Mims said there are two metal detectors that visitors must pass through before entering secure areas of the jail, but the lobby itself is a public area. More than a dozen other people were in the lobby Saturday morning when Vang entered, including four or five small children.
Christy Rodriguez told the Fresno Bee that she hid in a bathroom stall after hearing gunshots. “I just couldn’t believe this was happening,” Rodriguez told the Bee.
The Fresno County Jail was on lockdown Saturday afternoon and no inmate visits were being allowed.