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Gunman in Fresno poultry plant shooting methodical, authorities say

Lawrence Jones didn’t seem quite “himself” on Tuesday morning, a co-worker told police.

He started his shift, with the others at the chicken packaging plant in central Fresno at 5 a.m. They often work until 5 p.m. -- grateful, many said, for the overtime.

But about 8:20, authorities said, just a few minutes before meal break, Jones pulled out a .357 derringer handgun and reportedly walked methodically up to his co-workers and fired.

“He walked around them in order to get very close to the intended targets, place the gun very close and fire a round,” Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said.

By the time he emptied his four-shot gun, two people were dead, two others wounded. Jones, who had worked at the plant for 14 months, ran from the building. He reloaded his gun and shot himself in the head; he later died.

The packaging plant -- Valley Protein, formerly known as Apple Valley Farm -- is just off Blackstone Avenue, a busy thoroughfare through this city of about 500,000, in an area dense with auto repair shops, laundromats and mom-and-pop-eateries.

Roger Medina, 44, was on his way to pick up trophies for his soccer team about 8:30 a.m. when he saw a man in full meat-cutters gear running down Blackstone Avenue, yelling, “Somebody's shooting! Get help!”

Medina, who has CPR training, pulled onto the side street where the man was pointing.

“People in full sanitary gear, the hair nets and all, were running, screaming. Some were crying,” he said.

There were 62 people in the plant when the shooting started, and 30 of them witnessed the violence, Dyer said.

Manuel Verdin, 34, and Salvador Diaz, 32, were shot in the head and died, Dyer said. Arnulfo Conrriquez, 28, was shot in the throat and is in critical condition.

Several men tried to stop Jones, but he pointed his gun at their heads. He shot 32-year-old Fatima Lopez  in the lower back as she fled from the violence. He placed his gun to the head of a fifth worker, Esteban Catano, and pulled the trigger. But Catano escaped death because Jones' gun was out of ammunition, Dyer said

Jones, a parolee with an extensive criminal record, then ran from the building, reloading his gun. Workers also fled into the streets.

When Medina got out of the car to help, he said, “I looked down at the ground, and about 12 feet away is a guy with head trauma laying on a gun...he was the shooter.”

As investigators worked to collect witness statements, police rushed to search Jones' residence, fearful that he may have harmed others before going to work. They did not find more victims.

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--Diana Marcum in Fresno

 
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