Boy killed in Modesto shooting was from Manteca

Retribution feared after incident police call gang-related

February 9, 2009 

Authorities Monday identified the teenager killed in a Sunday morning shooting in south Modesto as Esteban Ramirez of Manteca. Ramirez turned 17 on Jan. 30.

Ramirez was shot to death while sitting in a parked car on the 1500 block of Modoc Avenue just before 1 a.m. Two 17-year-old girls with Ramirez were injured. One is paralyzed from the chest down, said deputy Royjindar Singh, sheriff's spokesman. The other is in stable condition at a Modesto hospital, he said.

Authorities released no new information about the suspected shooters. Witnesses described the suspects as firing from a white sport-utility vehicle.

Based on interviews with victims and witnesses, Singh said, detectives believe the shooting was gang-related.

A woman identifying herself only as the sister of one of the injured girls said her family did not want to comment out of fear for their safety.

"I'm scared for my sister's safety and for my mom," she said by telephone Monday night. "We don't want people to try to, what do they say, 'Finish them off.' "

She said the two injured girls were not sisters, contrary to what neighbors said Sunday, but authorities have not confirmed that.

On Monday afternoon, no trace of violence could be found on Modoc Avenue. No police tape or makeshift shrine marked the spot where Ramirez had lain dead in the street. But the shooting's effects were felt in other ways.

Neighbor Louisa Avanti cried as she talked about the need for residents to "get involved." Avanti called 911 and tended to the shooting victims before authorities arrived Sunday morning. She said most of her neighbors stayed locked inside their houses, too afraid to come out.

"It's your neighborhood and you have to take possession of it," she said. "You can't let these gangs take over. If you do, you've lost."

In some houses on Modoc Avenue, there are no neighbors to get involved. Avanti said the area is riddled with foreclosed, vacant houses.

At least three houses on Modoc Avenue stand empty.

One is a burned-out shell, two houses away from where the shooting happened. Red spray-painted graffiti -- in "gang code," Avanti said -- is scribbled on the building's front.

For the most part, Avanti said, Modoc Avenue is a safe block where neighbors watch out for each other. One house hosts a weekly Bible study; on the Fourth of July, residents gather to watch each other's fireworks, she said.

She said she thinks most of the area's gang activity happens on surrounding blocks, where she hears gunfire every six weeks or so.

The shooting happened in front of a house Avanti believes is linked to gangs. She said the house had been "stoned, robbed and shot at."

A 15-year-old boy who wouldn't give his name said he was playing outside a few months ago when he saw someone walk up to the house and fire a gun at it. He said he didn't know if the shots caused any damage, he was too busy running away to look.

Authorities would not release information on whether the shooting victims lived at the house or were connected to the residence in some other way.

No one was home Monday afternoon.

Just after 2 p.m. Monday, a silver Cadillac pulled up near the house. Inside was 82-year-old George McMahon, a volunteer for Shriners Hospitals for Children. McMahon said he was looking for the family of the paralyzed teenage girl.

The Shriners will provide free medical care to the girl until she turns 21, he said.

The Shriners provided care to another Modesto teenager paralyzed in a 2007 shooting.

McMahon said he drove to Modoc Avenue after he read about the shooting.

Singh said Monday night that sheriff's officials put the paralyzed girl's family in touch with the Shriners.

Bee staff writer Leslie Albrecht can be reached at lalbrecht@modbee.com or 578-2378.


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