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Fresno chief defends officers' conduct

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Wesson arraignment delayed.

The killings quadrupled Fresno's murder rate.

Police try to untangle web in California slayings.

The sons of Marcus Wesson defend him.
• Gallery: Bodies found in Fresno home

• Read the felony complaint:  California v. Wesson (FindLaw)external link
• Map: Fresno, California

FRESNO, California (CNN) -- Fresno's police chief defended his officers' decision to wait more than an hour before entering a Fresno home where they found nine people shot to death last Friday night.

Chief Jerry Dyer said Thursday the officers had no legal authority to go inside until Marcus Wesson -- now charged with the killings -- walked outside with blood on his clothes.

"I support the officers because I know they did the right thing," Dyer said.

Wesson, 57, appeared in court Thursday but his arraignment was delayed for a week until a lawyer he wants to hire decides if he will take the case.

Wesson remains jailed without bail.

Dyer denied that his department was investigating whether officers -- called to the home by two women who said they were trying to get custody of children they had turned over to Wesson -- could have saved lives.

"There is no investigation that is occurring regarding the actions of the officers," Dyer said.

Dyer said all police knew at the time was that Wesson was locked in a bedroom -- possibly with a gun -- along with several children.

"The officers on scene did not hear gunshots and officers had no reason to believe that the children were about to be injured or killed," Dyer said.

Instead of rushing in, the officers called for the SWAT team and negotiators, he said. This was not out of fear for their own safety, Dyer said, but "out of concern for the welfare of the children as they did not want to force a confrontation and did not want to allow the situation to escalate."

"They did everything they were trained to do," Dyer said.

After Wesson emerged covered in blood, police entered the home where they found the bodies of a 24-year-old woman; five girls, ages 17, 8, 7 and two 1-year-olds; and three boys, ages 7, 4, and 1. The victims included at least two children police say the suspect fathered with one or two of his own daughters.

The bodies were piled atop one another and clothing was intertwined among them. Twelve empty coffins were stacked in a front room.

Chief Dyer said it is still undetermined when the victims were killed.

"It may have been the individuals were killed prior to the officers arriving," he said. "It could be that the individuals were killed after the officers arrived and it could be a combination thereof."

Dyer downplayed claims by some neighbors that they heard gunshots during the standoff.

"There are a lot of cases and times in which we investigate homicides and shootings in which people hear something and after they learned that someone has been shot they then say I did hear gunshots," he said.

The second-guessing has taken an emotional toll on the officers involved, he said.

"These officers have been through enough emotional trauma without someone providing information out there that would lead one to believe that they were responsible for the death of these individuals," he said.

Seventeen of the officers were given counseling and some have been placed on paid administrative leave because of the trauma, Dyer said.

Meanwhile, for the second time in two days, Wesson was in court for arraignment only to have it postponed until it is decided who will defend him.

Wesson has resisted getting a court-appointed lawyer and was granted a one-day delay Wednesday to allow him time to find his own counsel. He contacted Fresno criminal defense lawyer David Mugridge through a lawyer he knew previously.

Mugridge spent two hours with Wesson Thursday morning but told the judge he needed more time to talk with Wesson before deciding if he'll take his case.

Mugridge, who appeared with Wesson at Thursday's hearing, asked the judge for a one-week delay. Arraignment is now set for March 25.

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