Fresno State basketball player Joseph Hunter arrested again on felony weapons charges

Fresno State guard Joseph Hunter was arrested Friday on felony weapons charges, his second arrest in less than two weeks, and the prize of coach Justin Hutson’s 2022 recruiting class has been dismissed from the program without having played a single game for his hometown team.

“Fresno State athletics was made aware of new charges filed against men’s basketball student-athlete Joseph Hunter Jr. and we are working closely with campus officials to ensure that applicable protocols are followed during this time,” the athletics department said, in a statement. “Our priority continues to be the safety of our students and campus community. We will continue to cooperate with the Fresno Police Department.

“In response to the serious nature of these unfortunate charges, and per our policies, the student-athlete has been dismissed from the men’s basketball program, effective immediately.”

Detectives from the Central Valley Gun Crime Task Force served five search warrants and made three arrests Friday related to an ongoing firearms investigation, including the Bulldogs guard and two of three others who were arrested with him on May 16 following a routine traffic stop.

Also arrested on Friday was Qiwon Terry Whittiker, 25, and Isaiah Pirtle, 22. A fourth suspect, Vonkell Holmes, 21, remains outstanding and is wanted for felony and misdemeanor firearms charges.

The district attorney did not file charges against the San Joaquin Memorial High graduate following the May 16 arrest. But Hunter now faces felony charges of selling or transferring firearms with intent to avoid requirements of PC 27545; sell, loan, transfer of firearms without a dealer’s license; carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle; and possession of an assault weapon.

Bail on the possession of an assault weapons charge is listed at $160,000, according to Fresno County jail records.

Whittiker, who was driving the vehicle when Fresno Police found a .223 AR-15-style assault rifle with a 30-round clip and 20 live rounds of ammunition, is facing charges of felon in possession of a firearm; carrying a loaded firearm in vehicle; and driver allows passenger to carry loaded firearm.

Pirtle is facing charges of felon in possession of a firearm; felon in possession of ammo; and destruction of evidence.

The Central Valley Gun Crime Task Force is a partnership between the Fresno Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Its investigation is ongoing, and anyone with information on this case is encouraged to contact Crime Stoppers at 498-STOP (7867).

Initial arrest started with routine traffic stop

The four men were arrested following a routine traffic stop at North Bengston and West Ashlan avenues around 7:15 p.m. on May 16, a Tuesday.

Whittiker, who was the driver, remained in the vehicle while the other three fled, according to the Fresno Police. When tracked down in the 1800 block of West Buckingham Way, two of the suspects complied with the officers’ orders while the third continued running and was later apprehended with the assistance of a police helicopter.

The assault-style rifle was in plain view in the rear passenger seat, police said.

That arrest was the first for Hunter, who did not play for the Bulldogs in his freshman season due to a thumb injury that required surgery.

The other three have a long list of arrests.

Whittiker had prior arrests for possession of stolen vehicle, possession of a concealed weapon in a vehicle and carrying a loaded firearm in public.

Pirtle’s history includes arrests for grand theft from person, burglary, vandalism, theft, robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, obtaining money by false pretenses, parole violation and resisting arrest.

Holmes’ arrest history includes arrests for theft, carrying a concealed weapon, grand theft, possession of ammunition by a prohibited person, possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, participating in a criminal street gang, child cruelty, possession of marijuana for sale and robbery.