Death toll rises to 3 in chicken plant shooting

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FRESNO, Calif. – Two more people have died after a worker opened fire at a Fresno chicken plant Tuesday morning, authorities said, including the suspected gunman.

The Fresno County coroner’s office said Tuesday afternoon that the death toll stood at three and included suspect Lawrence Jones, 42. Police described one of the victims as a 32-year-old man who was pronounced dead at the Valley Protein plant; no information was immediately available about the second victim.

Jones, a “discharged parolee” who had worked at the plant for about 14 months, clocked in to work shortly before 5 a.m. and at about 8:30 “pulled out a handgun and began opening fire” near a cold storage section of the building, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said.

Officers found Jones outside the building with an apparent gunshot wound to the head, Dyer said. They also found a 32-year-old woman who had been shot in the lower back.

(Credit: Fresno Bee)

Three men were found inside: the 32-year-old who was pronounced dead at the scene, a 34-year-old shot in the head and a 28-year-old shot in the neck. The victims were all taken to a local hospital, along with Jones.

Dyer said investigators still weren’t sure what prompted Jones to open fire, but said a coworker told authorities Jones “did not appear himself when he came in to work.” Hours later, Dyer said, he pulled out a gun and started shooting.

“I heard pops,” said Yeprem Barbarian, who passed the plant during the shooting on his way to his tire shop. “I thought it was tires. Then I walked in, turned on the TV and saw the police cars and sirens showing up.”

Officers were searching Jones’ Fresno home to ensure there were no other victims, Dyer said.

No one answered a telephone number listed for the plant, also known as Apple Valley Farms Inc. All calls instead went to an answering machine.

“Unfortunately, due to an emergency we are closed for the day,” the message said.