2 charged in slaying on Fourth of July

Authorities say they're Norteños and victim was innocent bystander

July 7, 2009 

Two suspects who were arrested in connection with a drive-by shooting in west Modesto on the Fourth of July will be arraigned on murder, attempted murder and gang charges this afternoon in Stanislaus County Superior Court.

A 26-year-old man who died and two others who were injured were among a crowd of people celebrating the holiday in the 1200 block of Figaro Avenue when shots rang out about 9:50 p.m., according to Sgt. Brandon Kiely of the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department.

Witnesses who called 911 described a vehicle that patrol officers spotted leaving the neighborhood. Sheriff's deputies chased the car southbound on Highway 99 until the suspects crashed into an embankment on the off-ramp at West Main Street.

The authorities believe the suspects are Norteño gang members and referred to the victim as an innocent bystander. Kiely did not release the victim's name because his family had not been notified.

"At this point, we don't anticipate any other arrests," Kiely said.

Abel Rodriguez, 26, of Ceres and Pedro Alvarez, 20, of Modesto were booked at the jail early Sunday, charged with murder, attempted murder, committing a crime on behalf of a street gang and participating in a criminal street gang. Rodriguez was additionally charged with fleeing from police. Both men are being held without bail.

A criminal complaint has not been filed. Assistant District Attorney Carol Shipley said her staff is reviewing the case and will file charges before Alvarez and Rodriguez are arraigned this afternoon.

Kiely would not say how many times the victim was shot, whether anyone at the crime scene was associated with a gang or what kind of car the suspects crashed. Detective Francisco Soria said two victims are hospitalized in stable condition.

On Figaro Avenue, neighbors said the shooting happened in front of a peach- colored bungalow. Some said the house is a known hangout for Sureño gang members; others said it is a quiet family home.

The front yard had a trampoline, some toys and children's clothing drying on a clothesline. No one was home Monday.

People who commented about the shooting asked that their names not be used, saying they do not want to get caught in a turf war. Several people said the man who died was visiting the family and did not live on the block.

A man who was sitting on a lawn, drinking a Budweiser, said the neighborhood has a lot of gang drama. As he put it, "I stay out of the way, and if I see something, I didn't see it."

Several people said they returned home from holiday parties to find a crime scene and lots of speculation about what might have happened.

Some boys who were setting off fireworks Saturday night said they watched a black car pull up to the house where about 20 people were hanging out, drinking.

They heard gunshots and later watched sheriff's deputies post yellow tape and search for bullets and other evidence. They said they were surprised that the officers didn't ask them any questions, but were not shocked by the crime.

"They're Sureños and Norteños," one boy said. "They just shoot."

Anyone with information about the shooting should call Detective Francisco Soria at 525-7080.

Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at sherendeen@modbee.com or 578-2338.

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