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108 Hours: Taking down Kori Muhammad and where Fresno goes from here

Here is my email sent to Standriff in the early morning hours of Saturday, April 29, with the request that it be forwarded to the Mayor:

Lee: I’m working on a story about the city’s operational response during the four-and-a-half days from the Motel 6 shooting late on April 13 to the mid-morning shootings of April 18.

The story will include a look at the city’s post-incident analysis of what happened during those 108 hours. From a scientific management standpoint, what went right and what (if anything) went wrong in regards to the city fulfilling its public safety responsibility? Did all of the city’s public safety assets and decision-making officials work smoothly and in tandem during those 108 hours? Who made key decisions on how to respond to what might come to be viewed as an incident unlike anything in Fresno history? Who knew what, and when, in the City Hall chain of command from late April 13 to mid-April 18?

The story will take a look at whether the city will conduct a thorough review for public consumption of what happened within city departments during those four-and-a-half days, a report much like the Minkler report sponsored by the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department after the shootings of Feb. 25, 2010 and the SART report sponsored by the Fresno Fire Department after the Pete Dern incident of March 29, 2015.

The story will consider whether the murders of April 18, 2017 were of a kind all too common in American history but unique to Fresno – assassinations of a political nature (even though the victims themselves weren’t political figures).

The story will look at what factors an average Fresnan in the post-April 18 world might consider when thinking about an operational plan for the safety of his/her family in Fresno’s public sphere.

I would like the story to include what the Mayor of Fresno and the City Manager did during those four-and-a-half days from an operational standpoint. The Minkler report said the two peace officers didn’t have to die. The SART report said the Fresno firefighter didn’t have to be nearly burned to death. Might the three victims of April 18 be alive today if top city officials had performed differently in the wake of the Motel 6 shooting? If not, if the three deaths of April 18 were outside the influence of City Hall’s public safety system, then let’s explain why.

I interviewed Chief Dyer on Thursday.

Lee, let’s get together on Saturday to discuss these topics.

Thank you.

Brand and I did not meet. Here is the Mayor’s statement, emailed to me by Standriff on Monday, May 1:

First, I find the premise of your story to be utterly unfounded. There is not a single shred of evidence to suggest that the Fresno Police Department, the Mayor’s office or anyone else could have predicted or prevented this tragedy. In fact, according to Kori Muhammad himself, he didn’t make the fateful decision until the morning of April 18 when he tapped into the Wi-Fi system of a Tower District coffee shop and discovered that he was wanted by police for the Motel 6 shooting. If Kori Muhammad didn’t know what he was going to do until minutes before he did it, how on earth would we or anyone else know?

Secondly, I find the premise of your story to be reckless and repugnant. Searching for a conspiracy without a credible theory is irresponsible journalism and will do nothing but cause more heartbreak for the victims’ families. Furthermore, to call into to question the actions of the Fresno Police Department and the City in this situation is wrong-headed in the worst way. We know the ShotSpotter system and the quick response of our police department may have saved who knows how many others from being gunned down by Muhammad, and their actions have been universally praised.

If and when you have credible evidence to the contrary, Chief Dyer or myself will be more than willing to discuss this issue with you in greater detail.

George Hostetter is The Sun’s Fresno Civic contributor – covering the City of Fresno, County of Fresno, and Fresno Council of Governments.

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