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Fresno chicken plant shooting: Nearby taco shop eerily quiet

November 6, 2012 | 12:13 pm

People embrace outside the police lines near where a shooting occurred at a meat plant in Fresno on Tuesday. Credit: Craig Kohlruss / Fresno Bee

With a break at 8:45 a.m., the Apple Valley Farms employees are always the first to arrive at Taco Nayarit in Central Fresno.

But Tuesday, owner Felipe Arzate said, none of them came.

"They only have 30 minutes to eat, so they call me first, tell me, 'Hey, I want this. I want that,' " Arzate said. "Today, nobody calls me — then I see a lot of cops."

Investigators combed the nearby chicken processing plant late Tuesday morning, searching for clues as to why an employee opened fire about 8:30 a.m., killing one coworker and wounding three others before shooting himself in the head, police said.

"I heard pops," said Yeprem Barbarian, who passed the plant during the shooting on his way to his tire shop. "I thought it was tires. Then I walked in, turned on the TV and saw the police cars and sirens showing up."

The suspect, identified as Lawrence Jones, 42 — a "discharged parolee" who worked at the plant for about 14 months — was in critical condition at an area hospital, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said.

Jones clocked in to work shortly before 5 a.m. and about 8:30, grabbed a gun and starting firing, Dyer said. A 32-year-old man was shot in the head and killed.

Injured were a 28-year-old man shot in the neck, a 34-year-old man shot in the head and a 32-year-old woman shot in the lower back.

The men were in critical condition, Dyer said. The woman was in serious condition but was expected to survive.

Dyer said investigators still weren't sure what prompted the suspect to open fire. A coworker told police Jones "did not appear himself when he came into work," he added.

The customers who straggled into Arzate's restaurant Tuesday asked the owner about the shooting.

"Felipe, you know anyone?" one asked.

"Yes," he said. "I know them all. But not their names. Just who they are — their faces."

"I don't feel right," he continued. "It should be busy and happy here and today, nobody come."

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— Diana Marcum in Fresno and Kate Mather in Los Angeles

Photo: People embrace outside the police lines near where a shooting occurred at a meat plant in Fresno on Tuesday. Credit: Craig Kohlruss / Fresno Bee

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