Gunman in Clovis double-murder may have been mentally ill
A Clovis man who gunned down his mother and a neighbor before he was fatally shot by police early Friday reportedly was mentally ill and was acting strangely in the hours before the shootings, a neighbor said.
The Fresno County Coroner’s Office identified the gunman as Christopher Machado, 40. He was shot at 12:40 a.m. and died at Community Regional Medical Center about three hours later.
The Coroner’s Office said his mother was Edith Machado, 73. She was shot in the home she shared with her son at 221 Eighth St. near downtown Clovis and was dead at the scene, police said.
After shooting his mother, Machado fatally shot a neighbor who was peering out from his home across the street, police said. He was identified as Vernon Eugene Lindsay, 60, the Coroner’s Office said.
Police said Machado also went to the nearby Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church’s convent and banged on the door. Nobody answered.
He also knocked on the door at another neighbor’s house, but she didn’t answer.
Clovis police were called at 12:30 a.m. Friday to several reports of up to six shots. Police arrived a minute later and found Machado armed with a shotgun.
When he did not follow orders by police to put down the gun, he was shot, Clovis police spokeswoman Janet Stoll-Lee said.
A 38-year-old woman who is one of Lindsay’s neighbors but didn’t want to be identified by name said she heard a knock on her door before police arrived. She said she refused to open her door and then heard police yelling for Machado “to put the gun down” before shots rang out.
Machado was in jail as recently as last Saturday after he was cited on suspicion of elder abuse and being drunk in public, according to Fresno County Jail records.
Because they were misdemeanor charges, he was issued a citation and released from the jail Sunday, jail records show.
He was previously arrested by Clovis police and jailed in 2008 for public intoxication, Fresno County Jail Lt. John Copher said.
Police said Machado went into a church sanctuary on Eighth Street and shot into a wall. Police were unsure when that shooting occurred in connection with the other shootings.
The neighbor said she understood that Machado suffered from mental illness, and she witnessed him acting strangely Thursday.
She said she saw a shoeless Machado walking in circles in his front yard from 3:30 to 9:30 p.m., occasionally genuflecting and making the sign of the cross.
“He had a mental condition and I don’t think he ever did anything about it,” she said.
A woman who said she was Machado’s sister but asked not to be named did not deny that her brother had a mental illness, but she would not offer details.
“There is so much we don’t know, and we are dealing with the big question of how this could happen to a beautiful son and a beautiful mother,” she said.
She would not say how many children were in the family.
“My brother loved his mother and my mother loved her son,” she said. “Whatever the source is of this tragedy, we can’t speculate on. It certainly wasn’t in anything that had to do with how much they loved each other.”
Lindsay lived with his widowed mother, Birdie, who is in her late 80s, and two small dogs. He was the last of Birdie Lindsay’s three sons, said a friend, JoAnn Vierra, who has known Lindsay for 15 years.
Another friend, Bev Bohigian, said she met Lindsay a few years ago and sold him her karaoke machine. She said he could belt out country love songs with the best of them.
Lindsay was self-employed. He drove to the coast to buy produce and then sold it to local businesses, Bohigian said.
Sometimes he could come across as slightly gruff, Bohigian said, “but deep down inside he was very sweet.”
The woman who heard the police shooting unfold described Lindsay as “one of the nicest guys in the world” who often brought her dinner and desserts. He took her to the grocery store Thursday and later brought her some homemade chocolate-dipped strawberries.
She called him her “best friend.”
Lindsay was found dead inside the security door of his home, police said. He had opened his front door to see what was happening and his security light automatically flashed on, the neighbor said.
After refusing to open her door, the neighbor overheard part of Machado’s confrontation with police.
“He approached the cop and I heard them say, ‘Put your gun down,’ ” the woman said. Then came the gunfire.
The neighbor said she was still frightened by Friday afternoon, knowing that the man who shot Lindsay had knocked on her door before police arrived.
“This is like the worst thing I have ever been through in my life,” she said.
By Marc Benjamin