Man shot dead in Modesto's airport neighborhood

5 under arrest; police say crime gang-related

March 24, 2010 

One man was shot to death and another pistol-whipped during an attack early Wednesday in Modesto's airport neighborhood, authorities said.

Five people were taken into custody following a cross-town pursuit that ended in the Parklawn Avenue area of south Modesto, said officer Scott Nelson, a Modesto police spokesman.

Nelson said the suspects were later arrested on suspicion of murder and robbery with enhancements to their charges for alleged participation in a crime for the benefit of a street gang.

Those arrested were Hector Rocha Jr., 20, of Ceres, Aquiles Virgen, 20, of Waterford, Domingo Becerra, 22, of Modesto and two 16-year-old boys.

Police did not release the names of the teenage boys because they are minors. Nelson said they could not release the victim's name or age Wednesday night because Stanislaus County coroner officials were still trying to notify his family and confirm his identity.

One other person at the scene also was attacked and suffered injuries that did not threaten his life. Police did not release his name to protect his safety.

Officers responded to a 12:36 a.m. call of people arguing and yelling in front of a house at 611 Thrasher Ave., between Oregon Drive and Larkin Avenue.

When officers arrived, they found a Latino man with multiple gunshot wounds in the home's back yard. He was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Officers heading to the home spotted a car matching the one described by witnesses as possibly being involved in the incident, Nelson said.

Police tried to stop the car, but the driver fled. A five-minute pursuit led officers from multiple agencies into the 800 block of Parklawn. There, the suspects reportedly ditched the car and took off running, hopping backyard fences and spreading out.

Officers rounded up all the suspects within 30 minutes, Nelson said.

Kenny DeRieux, who lives a few houses away from where the shooting took place, was in his backyard at the time of the shooting smoking a cigarette when he heard the gunfire.

"I heard one loud shot," he said. "Then I heard something slide and hit the ground. I could tell they were shot."

By midmorning Wednesday, police tape that surrounded the area had been cut away. It remained up in the alley that abuts the backyard where police found the shooting victim.

A woman who was at the scene to keep the house from being burglarized said a man and a small child lived at the house and were there at the time of the shooting. She also said the shooting victim did not live at the house. She spoke with The Bee on the condition of anonymity.

None of what she said has been confirmed by police.

She, along with another neighbor, said the tenants were renters and had lived there a couple of months.

It's the second fatal shooting in the 600 block of Thrasher Avenue in less than a year.

On July 5, a 33-year-old Modesto man was shot a few houses away from Wednesday's incident. The victim, Rene Luna Navarro of Modesto, died three days later.

Detectives later arrested 21-year-old Modesto resident David Garza on suspicion of murder and using a firearm to commit a felony.

There have been other shootings over the years near the Thrasher-Larkin intersection, and in 2004, in the nearby park, 17-year-old Ernestina "Tina" DeJesus Tizoc was shot to death in a gang-related attack.

Officers from Modesto, the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department, Ceres police and the California Highway Patrol all worked on the incident.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada contributed to this report.

Bee Online Editor Brian Clark can be reached at bclark@modbee.com or 578-2362.


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