Four "ruthless" male teenagers have been arrested in connection with the shooting of a high school athletic trainer, apparently part of a gang-initiation crime spree — but when they walked into Steven Guerrero's classroom and pushed him around, they made a critical error.
Because Guerrero pushed right back.
It all started the evening prior to the last day of classes before winter break at Edison High School in Fresno, Calif. Guerrero was in his classroom with a custodian who was cleaning up and had just called his wife to say he was heading home.
Then he saw four young men he didn't recognize standing in the classroom's open doorway. One held a handgun, another a sawed-off shotgun. One of them asked, "Do you want to get shot?"
The custodian fled, according to the Fresno Bee. Guerrero, 30, backed away and put his hands in the air, according to Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer, reported KSFN-TV in Fresno, prepared to let the hoodlums grab a laptop computer and leave.
But after one suspect grabbed the laptop, another did something really stupid. He struck Guerrero in the head with a 25-pound weight. While dazed by the blow, Guerrero had enough and fought back.
Guerrero — also on the California USA Wrestling Board of Directors, where he volunteers as the director of the sports medicine program — knocked the handgun and laptop out of the suspect's hands. They struggled to grab the gun, but the suspect got to it first, the Bee reported.
The suspect, the oldest in the group, fired the gun at Guerrero, hitting him twice, Fresno Police Deputy Chief Pat Farmer said.
Think a bullet in the stomach and a slug in the right leg stopped him? Not a chance.
The Bee reported that Guerrero kept on fighting, eventually overpowering the suspect.
"Ultimately he did get the handgun and placed it against the chest of the 17 year -old and attempted to fire the weapon however it did not fire," Dyer told KSFN.
"It was human nature at that point, fight or flight, and he chose to fight," said Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson, who visited Guerrero and his wife at the hospital. "His life was in danger and he fought back. It was an amazing result given the set of circumstances he was up against."
Guerrero is healing and is now home with family members, KSFN says.
Ironically the foursome left behind not only the laptop they came to steal, but also the handgun they used to shoot Guerrero, which help lead to their arrests.
Dyer said a break in the case occurred when a 62-year-old woman told police that four boys, one armed with a handgun and another with a sawed-off rifle, beat her in an alley near the school just before the shooting, the Bee reported.
"They began to beat her and knocked her to the ground and continued to kick her while she was on the ground," Dyer told KSFN.
Police got five search warrants, and one search of a home near the school led to the discovery of a bullet from the handgun allegedly used in the shooting.
The suspects were arrested starting Monday night, the last teen taken into custody Tuesday afternoon. Three of the suspects are 16 and one is 17 and all were on the lookout for innocent people police said.
The shooting suspect confessed, Dyer said, and Guerrero identified the boy who had held the rifle. The teens will likely be charged with assault with a deadly weapon, attempted robbery, conspiracy and other charges. One of the teens used to go to Edison, KSFN reported, adding that detectives say surveillance video traces at least one suspect to the crime scene.
"These are juveniles, but they are ruthless," Dyer said. "They were trying to prove their value to the gang."
The Bee reported that Guerrero's uncommonly tough response belies his easygoing personality.
"He really works well with the kids and he's just so soft-spoken," fellow USA Wrestling board member Greg Chappel said. "Sometimes you get coaches who are demonstrative, but he's not that way."
"Knowing who he was, I didn't think anybody would have done that," said Edison senior Jacques Guidry, 17, of the shooting. "His job is to help people but it never looks like work for him."