Fresno Police officers on Saturday apprehended the man they believe barricaded himself in a north Fresno grocery store after fleeing gunfire from an off-duty Fresno County sheriff’s deputy earlier in the week.
The suspect, 28-year-old Pheng Vang, was wanted on suspicion of an unsolved burglary in which guns were stolen. Police surrounded the Save Mart on First Street and Nees Avenue for 20 hours overnight before calling off the search on Friday.
On Saturday afternoon, Vang fell from the Save Mart ceiling after spending almost two days in hiding. He ran out an emergency exit, and police apprehended him at a nearby apartment complex.
“In custody!” Police Chief Paco Balderrama tweeted Saturday afternoon. “Although SWAT was pulled back, we went w/ (sic) Plan B, leaving undercover officers in place and marked units in the area. Guess who just popped out of the ceiling?”
Vang faces charges of felony reckless evading and parole violation, Lt. Mark Hudson said. Additional charges could be forthcoming as officers continue their investigation.
Police said they do not believe Vang was armed, and no weapon had yet to be found at either the Save Mart or the apartment complex.
Police plan to review video footage to perhaps determine how Vang managed to get into the ceiling and evade officers for nearly two days.
Law enforcement from both the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office and Fresno Police, including SWAT team personnel, had surrounded the large grocery store building from Thursday night until midday Friday. Balderrama called off the search and said units had not been able to locate the suspect.
Despite pulling back the visible SWAT operation, Fresno Police left undercover detectives in place and were quick to nab Vang at the nearby apartment complex after receiving notification that the suspect had come down from the Save Mart ceiling and exited the store.
A customer who was at the Save Mart on Saturday said people could hear a loud crash inside the grocery store when Vang fell from the ceiling and onto the aisle floor. Hudson said a store manager immediately called 911 to inform police that the suspect who’d been in hiding might’ve been found.
“We always prepare for contingencies,” Hudson said. “It’s a big store. Could’ve been hiding in a lot of places. Fortunately, the end of the story is that he has been taken into custody and there’s no danger to the public.”
According to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, Vang was one of three people who entered a car that matched a description of a vehicle involved in a home burglary in which guns were stolen.
An off-duty deputy noticed the vehicle at the parking lot of the Macy’s in the River Park shopping center then noticed the three people who entered the car also matched a description of those wanted in connection to the home burglary.
After backup was called, the off-duty deputy made commands to the three people in the vehicle.
A man and a woman ran out of the car and into the Macy’s, and were caught by other law-enforcement officers.
But the driver, who authorities believe is Vang, drove away in the car and started ramming other vehicles to flee from the scene.
The off-duty deputy shot at the suspect vehicle, hitting it at least once. And the front window on the driver’s side looked like it had been cracked by a bullet.
It was unclear if the shots fired by the off-duty deputy caused Vang to flee from the scene or if the gunfire was a reaction to Vang banging other vehicles in his attempt to flee.
It also was not immediately known where the off-duty deputy was positioned in relation the car’s path.
The suspect ended up fleeing about 1 1/2 miles to the First Street and Nees Avenue intersection, where Vang allegedly abandoned the car in the shopping center on the northeast corner and ran across the street to the Save Mart.
Following Vang’s arrest Saturday, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said it was evaluating whether Vang would face additional charges regarding the deputy-involved shooting.
Detectives also planned to contact Vang to work their portion of the home burglary that happened in Caruthers to see if he is connected.
The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said that the man and woman detained Thursday night inside Macy’s were released after detectives did not establish evidence to show they were involved in the Caruthers burglary.
Guess who feel through the Savemart ceiling today? While we may have pulled back our visible SWAT operation, we left undercover detectives in place. When suspect Pheng Vang began to run, our MAGEC detectives and Northeast patrol officers were quick to apprehend him. pic.twitter.com/yodRDX4EBG
— Fresno Police (@FresnoPolice) May 21, 2022