The Fresno County Sheriff's Department has identified 57-year-old Michael James Congdon as the suspect in Tuesday's shooting of a Sheriff's deputy.
Congdon is facing two attempted murder charges, one against 49-year-old Deputy John Erickson and the other against Erickson's civilian ride-along. He has been booked into the Fresno County Jail; his total bail is set at slightly over $1.9 million. Congdon, who is from Fresno, is also facing felony charges of shooting at an occupied vehicle, using a firearm to commit a felony, committing a felony while armed and animal cruelty.
As of Wednesday morning, Fresno County Sheriff’s Deputy John Erickson had undergone surgery and is reported in critical but stable condition after being shot in the foothills standoff on Tuesday morning. The 49-year-old was shot in the leg with what is believed to have been a rifle after responding to a call of shots fired in the Tollhouse area of Fresno County.
The violence was the result of a property line dispute, which had brought deputies to the address in the past. The suspected gunman, Congdon, had already been shooting at various objects on the property before turning his weapon toward Erickson’s pickup truck. “There are numerous bullet holes in the passenger side window, the passenger side door, as well as the windshield of the vehicle,” said Sheriff Margaret Mims in a press conference on Tuesday evening. “The deputy that was shot was able to return fire; however, the suspect was not hit by any return fire,” she said.
According to Mims, what followed was a harrowing standoff. Erickson, who suffered a broken leg, was dragged away from the scene by his partner. The two of them hid for as much as an hour before more deputies could find them and carry Erickson through rugged terrain to a rescue helicopter. A civilian who had been riding along with Erickson was able to escape the truck without being struck and was also ushered to safety by Erickson’s partner.
The suspect had holed himself up in a makeshift shed with multiple weapons, but eventually emerged peacefully after spending hours on the phone with crisis negotiators. “And it’s all over a silly reason to start shooting at anybody, over a property dispute,” Mims said.
According to the sheriff’s office, the dramatic rescue involved coordination from the sheriff's SWAT and Crisis Negotiation Teams, as well as California Highway Patrol, which provided the helicopter that evacuated Erickson to Community Regional Medical Center. “This was great teamwork and it contributed to the survival of our deputy sheriff,” said Mims.
While searching the property Tuesday afternoon, detectives also found an injured horse. It had been shot multiple times and detectives suspect Congdon shot the animal before Deputy Erickson arrived on the scene. The horse was transported to a veterinarian for medical treatment; the prognosis is unknown.
Erickson’s wife issued a brief statement on Tuesday night, thanking the community for its support and looking forward to his recovery. “It’s difficult to see him go through this,” she wrote in a statement shared by the sheriff’s office. “We look forward to seeing him get back to his usual joking self.”