FRESNO -- A Fresno police officer assigned to Roosevelt High School shot and killed a sophomore on campus Wednesday after the 220-pound, 6-foot-2 teen struck him on the head with a baseball bat, authorities said.
The body of Jesse Carrizales lay sprawled near the basketball courts for hours as officers investigated the death. The campus was put on immediate lockdown, and hundreds of anxious parents gathered outside the school's gates pleading for information.
Carrizales' family said he has no history of violence. They said Carrizales, who turned 17 last month, was on medication for depression but was responding well.
"We want to know what led up to this. What happened? We don't know. No one will tell us anything," said Carrizales' sister, 27-year-old Elisa Ortega, at the family's southeast Fresno home, where their mother, Virginia Carrizales, was in her son's bedroom crying, hugging his pillow.
The attack and shooting happened at 11:54 a.m just outside a portable office that houses campus police. No one seemed to know why Carrizales attacked the officer, identified by students as Junus Perry.
"He never said a word to Officer Perry before he struck him," said Tony Clayborne, a Roosevelt senior who says he saw the shooting from a classroom window.
Police Chief Jerry Dyer said the 10-year veteran of the department could have been killed if he hadn't fired. Perry was taken to Community Medical Center for a two-inch gash on his head and later released.
In a news conference, Dyer described Carrizales' weapon as a bat broken off at the handle, with electrician's tape wrapped around the exposed end.
The officer fell backward from the blow, Dyer said, and the magazine of his handgun fell out as he hit the ground. The student approached the dazed officer, who pulled another weapon from an ankle holster and fired, he said. "Fortunately, this officer has a secondary weapon, and in this case, the weapon probably saved his life," Dyer said.
Parents, alerted by text and cell phone calls from their children, gathered outside the school's main gates on Tulare Avenue.
They shouted to school authorities on the other side of the chain-link fence: "When will the kids be released? Tell us what happened." School officials didn't answer. People burst into tears as rumors swirled: A girl was dead. No, a boy. No, a boy and a girl.
By 1:30 the crowd had swelled to about 200 and grown angry. Some were shaking the fence. One woman shouted: "Give us our children!" School administrators started releasing students about 1:45 p.m. No official word about what happened went out to parents until 3 p.m.
Behind the gates, some students and school employees had witnessed the shooting. Tony Marroquin, 18, said he was walking from the cafeteria to his fifth-period class when he saw Carrizales hit Perry with a bat.
"The kid went after him. Whacked him in the side of the head," he said. "Girls started crying. Mr. Perry got his other gun. Boom! It was loud. Boom! And the boy just fell on the ground.
"There was blood dripping from his (the officer's) head when he fired his gun."
At her job with Fresno County as a benefits eligibility worker, Ortega heard news reports that a 17-year-old boy who had started school in January was dead at Roosevelt High.
She called the school. The receptionist said she couldn't give her any information. One of Ortega's co-workers told her kids were saying the dead boy was named Jesse.
About 1:30 p.m., Ortega left work and drove her parents' house. "The detectives didn't come to our house until after 2 p.m. We were the last to know," she said.
"I said, 'Why can't you send an ambulance? Why didn't they Taser him? Hit him? Anything! Why did you kill him?' They wouldn't answer me."
There have been at least three other shootings of students by campus police at schools across the country after altercations in the past 10 years. But this may be the first such shooting to be fatal. Fresno police will conduct an in-house investigation. The Fresno County District Attorney's Office also will investigate to determine whether the shooting was justified.
The last group of students was released at 2:35 p.m. At 3 p.m., Fresno Unified School officials notified parent of the shooting through the district's automatic telephone system.
As the last group of students spilled out the gates, Catherine Young, 49, rushed down the sidewalk to find her 15-year-old son.
Young said she was in pain as she made her way through the throngs of students, staff and parents.
"I hurt for the kids. I hurt for the police officer. I hurt for the student and his family," she said. "This is everyone's tragedy."
Bee staff writers Louis Galvan, Pablo Lopez, Vanessa Colon, Marc Benjamin, Will Albritton and Barbara Anderson also contributed to this story.