The gunman who shot and killed three men as he walked down the streets of downtown Fresno on Tuesday was intent on killing as many white men as he could and spoke of his deadly four-minute rampage with pride, according to police.
At an afternoon news conference Wednesday, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer described in great detail the actions of suspected gunman Kori Ali Muhammad, a black man who spoke of an ongoing race war before turning his .357 magnum revolver on several people, police said.
“Kori Muhammad is not a terrorist, but he is a racist and he is filled with hate, and he set out this week to kill as many people as he could…. He’s not going to kill anyone else,” the chief told reporters.
Dyer also disclosed that another man whom Muhammad encountered after running out of ammunition had taken his revolver after a brief conversation and fled the scene by jumping over a backyard fence.
“I want to make a desperate plea for that individual to turn himself in,” Dyer said. “I’m asking him to call immediately and return that gun to the Police Department.”
The chief noted that the man who fled with the weapon was caught on surveillance tape and that a box he was carrying, but abandoned at the scene, was undergoing analysis.
Police Chief Jerry Dyer glances over at a photo of victim Zackary Randalls during a news conference at the Fresno Police Department on April 19.(Craig Kohlruss / Fresno Bee )
Va’Ron Mitchell, left, 10, his aunt Deshunna Ricks, and his cousin A’Marian Trujillo, 13, all of Fresno, hold candles with community members and faith leaders from On Ramps Covenant Church during a prayer and vigil in the alley behind the Catholic Charities’ Fresno Family Resource Center to honor the shooting victims.(Silvia Flores / Fresno Bee)
Rabbi Laura Novak Winer, of Temple Beth Israel, speaks out against violence and asks the people of Fresno to educate themselves about Islam at a gathering of faith leaders in response to the shooting.(Silvia Flores / Fresno Bee)
Community members and faith leaders from On Ramps Covenant Church hold hands during a prayer and vigil in the alley behind the Catholic Charities’ Fresno Family Resource Center to honor the shooting victims.(Silvia Flores / Fresno Bee )
Carl Allen Williams III, who police believe was shot and killed by the Fresno gunman five days before his attack that killed three others.(Fresno Police Department)
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer reviews notes on a triple fatal shooting before addressing the media in Fresno.(John Walker / Fresno Bee)
Fresno police stand by on closed Fulton Street at the scene of Tuesday’s triple shooting.(John Walker / Fresno Bee)
This undated photo provided by the Fresno Police Department shows Kori Ali Muhammad, 39, who was arrested shortly after a shooting outside a Catholic Charities building in Fresno.(Fresno Police Department)
Police walk near the scene of a fatal attack in downtown Fresno on Tuesday. A man shot and killed three people before surrendering to authorities, the Fresno Police Department said.(John Walker / Fresno Bee)
A shooting victim is covered on a Fresno sidewalk as evacuated office workers stand nearby.(John Walker / Fresno Bee)
A street is blocked off in Fresno after a gunman shot and killed three people.(Scott Smith / Associated Press)
The news conference was also the first time that authorities identified the three men who were shot Tuesday morning: Zackary David Randalls, 34, of Clovis; Mark James Gassett, 37, of Fresno; and David Martin Jackson, 58, also of Fresno. A fourth victim, Carl Williams, 25, of Fresno was shot and killed five days earlier, police say.
Randalls was recently hired by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to work in a call center and was on his first ride-along as an employee when he was shot and killed, according to Dyer.
When Randalls, a married father of a 3-year-old girl and 4-year-old boy, decided to take the job at PG&E, he thought it would be a good decision for his family’s future, said his friend, Jonathan Gilbert.
“He wanted the best for his family,” Gilbert said. “They were his whole world. They were his everything.”
Timothy Welsh, a family friend who created a GoFundMe page, said he grew up with Randalls in Lemoore, where the victim attended high school.
“Our hearts are very heavy as we have lost a member of our PG&E family,” the utility said in a statement Wednesday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with our employee’s family and friends. Our focus is on supporting our employees and their families and law enforcement’s investigation.”
The second man killed Tuesday, Gassett, had been looking for work earlier that day and then headed to Catholic Charities to get groceries before he was shot. Gassett had been staying at a rehab facility nearby and frequented the food bank, his stepfather, Harold Wagner, said.
“He has had problems, but he was doing good,” Wagner said. “He loves his kids.”
Lisa Ann Gassett, the mother of his two sons, ages 9 and 14, created a GoFundMe page to raise money to pay for funeral expenses. On the page, she wrote, “Please help for my boys dad funeral Mark Gassett life was taken so early by a mad shooter in Fresno.”
Dyer said the men were targeted on the basis of race and gender. Muhammad, who referred to himself in social media posts as a “black soldier,” had also called white people “devils.”
Dyer said that during a lengthy interview with detectives Tuesday night, Muhammad walked police through his actions at the crime scene. When talking to detectives, “he did so in a very callous manner and in fact multiple times laughed as he described what transpired,” Dyer said.
The first shooting happened at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, when police say Muhammad walked up to a PG&E truck in the 300 block of North Van Ness Avenue and fired four rounds into the vehicle, striking Randalls. The driver sped away and stopped at police headquarters to report the gunman. Dyer said he chose not to shoot the driver because he was “Hispanic.”
Next, Muhammad encountered a 59-year-old man who had just walked out of a home in the 900 block of East Mildreda Avenue. Muhammad opened fire on the man, who fell to the ground, Dyer said. As Muhammad reloaded, the man jumped to his feet and ran into the home. Muhammad briefly considered chasing the man but continued walking, he said.
Muhammad then fired on a vehicle but stopped once he saw that the occupants were “two Hispanic females,” the chief said.
Muhammad continued walking to the 200 block of North Fulton Street, where he shot Gassett in the chest, Dyer said. When Gassett fell to the ground, Muhammad stood over him and fired two more rounds into his body, Dyer said.
Next, Muhammad fired at Jackson and two other men saw sitting at a bus stop, according to the chief. As Jackson ran away, Muhammad chased after him and fired two more shots at him, the chief said. Jackson collapsed and died in the parking lot of Catholic Charities, also on Fulton, according to the chief.
After shooting Jackson, Muhammad — still armed with a handgun that was wrapped in clothing — ran into a man who was carrying a box of food, and the two had a brief conversation, Dyer said. Surveillance footage showed the man setting down the box and retrieving Muhammad’s gun from the clothing, he said. The man then ran out of the neighborhood, jumped a fence, emptied the handgun in a backyard and took off running again, the chief said.
A total of 17 shots were fired before police spotted Muhammad running in the area. The gunman then “dove onto the ground” and was taken into custody, the chief said. Muhammad dropped two amulet-type objects, which he told police were for the purpose of protecting against evil, Dyer said.
According to Dyer, Muhammad told police, “I did it. I shot them. You guys are looking for me.”
After Muhammad was handcuffed and placed into the back of a patrol cruiser, he yelled, “Allahu akbar,” the chief said.
Dyer said Muhammad later told police the reason he shouted the Arabic phrase: “In the event that if anything did happen to him that he was in fact pledging his allegiance to God for protection.”
After he was arrested, Dyer said that Muhammad told him, “Sorry, chief,” but added that “he may have been sorry for the work that he caused us, but not for what he did.”
He has “not shown, truly, any remorse to our detectives,” the chief said.
While in custody, Muhammad spoke to his mother and “told her not to cry, that he is still alive and that his magic is powerful, and then he started laughing,” the chief said.
On Tuesday, Muslim faith leaders denounced the shootings and called on the police department to hold the gunman responsible.
“We condemn the acts of this criminal in the strongest terms and we stand with our community and city in support and brotherhood,” the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno said in a statement Tuesday. “Additionally, today’s crime represents nothing to do with our faith, our community, our center or our people.”
The center noted that the phrase “Allahu akbar,” which roughly translates to “God is great,” is a common positive refrain uttered by Muslims in a prayer of peace.
“It is a recognition of our role as a part in the creation of the Most Merciful God and our duty to see ourselves humbly in relation to God as just a part in the creation,” the center said. “When someone utters these beautiful words and commits violent acts, it brings pain to our community and crushes our hearts.”
Imam Seyed Ali Ghazvini said he was saddened and shocked to hear about the killings. Ghazvini said Muhammad was not a member of his congregation.
“What he did was an awful crime,” Ghazvini said. “The Muslim community in this area is very hard-working and contributes to society and economy. It is very sad to hear that someone would kill others in the name of our faith.”
Police had been looking for Muhammad, who previously was convicted of cocaine possession and a weapons charge, since last week.
Muhammad was suspected in the fatal shooting of Williams, who was working as a security guard when he was shot and killed outside a Motel 6 on April 13. Dyer said Muhammad told detectives he had shot Williams at close range because he felt disrespected by the victim.
After shooting Williams, Muhammad climbed onto the roof of a nearby 7-Eleven and watched investigators below as they combed the motel for clues, the chief said. He remained there until morning, then hid near a trash bin at an elementary school. During the weekend, he stayed in a ravine in the city, where he practiced voodoo rituals, Dyer said. He told investigators he prays to seven different gods, although he described himself as Muslim, the chief said.
Muhammad cut off his braids and burned them, the chief said. He slept in the ravine until Tuesday, then headed to a shop in the city to buy crystals for his voodoo rituals, Dyer said. The store was closed, so he went to Starbucks, where he learned from news reports that police were looking for him in connection with Williams’ death, the chief said.
Once he found out he was wanted for murder, Muhammad told investigators he didn’t want to go down for killing one man — he wanted to “kill as many white males as possible,” Dyer said.
In the wake of Tuesday’s bloodshed, authorities and journalists have turned to Muhammad’s social media accounts for insights into his thinking.
A Facebook profile page for a Kori Ali Muhammad from Fresno included militant and apocalyptic language and repeated demands to “let black people go.” He referenced “white devils” and praised melanoma skin cancer.
On Monday, he wrote: “MY KILL RATE INCRESASES TREMENDOUSLY ON THE OTHER SIDE ASÈ ALLAH U AKBAR.”
Muhammad’s grandmother, Glenestene Taylor, told The Times that he legally changed his name from Kori Taylor when he was a teenager.
She said she didn’t remember her grandson ever showing a racial bias, toward whites or anyone else, in all his years staying with her or during countless visits to her predominately white Fresno neighborhood.
“He would say something derogatory about anybody, didn’t matter about the color,” Glenestene Taylor said. “If he didn’t like what they did, he didn’t like what they did no matter the color.”
4:30 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Chief Jerry Dyer at Wednesday’s news conference, details about the gunman’s statements to police and comments from Harold Wagner.
11:40 a.m.: This article was updated with the identity of David Martin Jackson.
This article was originally published at 11:10 a.m.