Family details fatal shooting

Victim talked with men in car before gunfire, his cousins say

June 19, 2009 

Homicide detectives Friday were looking for two suspects in the shooting of a 22-year-old man who was killed Thursday night near his east Modesto home as his younger cousins played basketball, police and the victim's family said.

Officers found Daniel Mendez wounded and lying in the middle of street, said Detective Steven Stanfield, a police spokesman. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police described the suspects as two Latinos who were in a blue, four-door car. The suspects remained at large Friday evening.

Stanfield said detectives had not ruled out the possibility the shooting was gang-related, but the motive had not been determined. He said detectives also had not determined whether there was any relationship between Mendez and the suspects.

The shooting occurred about 8:15 p.m. in the 200 block of Carmillita Way, a few blocks south of Riverside Park and north of Yosemite Boulevard in east Modesto.

Mendez was playing basketball with three cousins when the shooting occurred, his family said. Two of the cousins who witnessed the shooting spoke to The Bee on Friday, but the teenage boys declined to give their names to ensure their safety.

The teenagers said they were playing basketball with Mendez near his home, using a portable basketball hoop in the street and near a driveway.

The two men drove up in the blue car with tinted windows, stopped in the middle of street and called Mendez over, the boys said. The men never got out of the car.

The boys said the men and Mendez had what appeared to be "a short, normal conversation." There was no arguing before the shots were fired.

"That's when we heard the gunshots, and we saw all the bullet shells flying," one of Mendez's teenage cousins said.

They said the suspects left in the blue car south on Carmillita Way, then west toward North Riverside Drive.

Police temporarily closed Carmillita Way, which runs between San Ignacio and Haddon avenues, as detectives collected evidence and spoke to witnesses.

This was not the only shooting near Riverside Park on Thursday.

About 1 a.m., officers arrested two men after they apparently fired a gun from their car, then tried to run from police. Stanfield said there was no indication the two shootings were connected.

'A kindhearted guy'

On Friday afternoon, family and friends held a carwash to raise money to help pay for Mendez's funeral. Family members said they don't know why Mendez was shot, and they remembered him as a quiet young man who kept to himself.

"He was just a good person; a kindhearted guy," said his cousin, Amy Vasquez, 30, of Ceres. "I don't know if he had any enemies. He didn't deserve that."

Police ask anyone with information about this shooting to call Crime Stoppers at 521-4636. Tipsters also can e-mail tips through the Crime Stoppers Web site, www.modestopolice.com/CrimeStoppers, or text tips to CRIMES (274637) by typing "Tip704" plus the message. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a cash reward.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or 578-2394.

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