Photo courtesy of Clovis Police Department
By Valerie Shelton, Editor
Clovis is a special place for many reasons—the excellent school district, the beautifully landscaped parks and trails and being voted the number one community to raise a family in—but one of the most important things about Clovis is its reputation for being the safest city in the Valley.
That is why I was so surprised when I received a phone call recently from a citizen concerned about his safety. Apparently, a group of five suspects who had been arrested by Clovis Police on various felony charges were released from the Fresno County Jail just a few short days after being reprimanded.
I recognized the case, as it was detailed in press releases I’d received and all over the Clovis Police Department’s social media.
The press release I received on March 3 reads as follows:
“On March 2, at about 11:15 p.m., the occupants of a residence in the 2700 block of Sunnyside Avenue were confronted in their home by several armed suspects. A physical disturbance between one of the residents and one suspect ensued and the resident sustained minor injuries. Neighbors, hearing the disturbance, went to the aid of the victims and chased several suspects on foot from the victim’s yard.
“The suspects were chased to the area of Sierra Vista Parkway and Santa Ana, while the police department received several calls of “shots fired” in the area. The suspects fled in a vehicle and a witness gave police a description and direction of travel. Officers responded to the scene and located the vehicle leaving the area and detained the five occupants.
“All five suspects were arrested for a variety of charges including conspiracy to commit home invasion, assault with a deadly weapon, attempted homicide, criminal threats, false imprisonment, conspiracy, kidnapping, weapons charges and gang enhancements. A stolen firearm was recovered during the investigation. In custody are 21-year-old Charles Mao, 26-year-old Victor Pech, 20-year-old Timmy My, 20-year-old Kevin Pech and 20-year-old Johnny Pech. All five are being transported to the Fresno County Jail.”
Attempted homicide? Assault with a deadly weapon? Kidnapping? These are serious charges. In my mind, I thought there is no way these suspects would be released so soon, but the concerned caller was right. All five were released on March 7. The reason for the release given on the Fresno County Jail website? “Past time to request charges.”
I had to scratch my head reading that. The same questions the concerned citizen was asking me ran through my mind: What about the safety of the community? What was stopping any of them from possibly committing another crime? Would they flee before charges could be filed?
I sought out Janet Stoll-Lee, the Public Information Officer for the Clovis Police Department, to provide me with some information about how and why this would happen. She said the main reason is that it takes time to collect evidence needed to prosecute in cases like these.
“The Clovis Police Department arrested five people on Thursday, March 3, for a number of crimes,” Stoll-Lee said. “We have probable cause to believe they committed these crimes and are thankful they were caught and taken off the streets. The level of probable cause to arrest doesn’t always include everything that the District Attorney’s office needs to effectively obtain a conviction. Oftentimes cases of this magnitude require extensive follow-up for a successful prosecution. Things like the forensic processing of evidence by the Department of Justice, additional witness statements unavailable at the time of arrest and other factors can take considerable time. The decision to not file charges at this time does not mean that no charges will ever be filed. Our investigators will work closely with the DA’s office to help gather whatever they need as quickly as possible so these suspects can be fully prosecuted.”
Stoll-Lee added that the Clovis Police Police Department shares many of the same concerns as citizens about safety when suspects like these are released back into the community. She recommended that residents keep their eyes and ears open and report any suspicious activities to the Clovis Police Department right away.
“All are valid concerns and we share those concerns,” Stoll-Lee said. “The process can be frustrating for all of us, but we have to work within the framework of the law. As far as the community’s safety, our officers will provide extra patrols to this particular area. Restrictions on monitoring can only be done through the court and that is not a possibility at this time. We encourage neighbors to keep an eye out for each other. If you see something suspicious, we urge residents to call Clovis Police Dispatch at 324-2800. If you see a crime being committed, dial 9-1-1 immediately so we can get officer out to the scene.”
So rest easy, Clovis, your police department hears your concerns and are doing their best to keep the community safe while working within their legal bounds.
As usual, crime will not be tolerated in Clovis.