WATERFORD -- A 27-year-old Ceres man was shot to death early Friday morning, and deputies are seeking a Waterford man as the suspect, the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department reports.
Deputies were called to a fight in the street near the intersection of Dorsey and E streets about 1:30 a.m. When they arrived, they found Billy Miller on the stairs to an apartment complex, fatally wounded by a gunshot to the chest.
Deputies and emergency personnel tried but were unable to revive him.
After interviewing witnesses, the sheriff's department identified Jose Luis Solis, Jr., 30, of Waterford as a suspect. He is at large, wanted on a homicide charge as detectives continue to investigate. He's considered armed and dangerous.
Deputy Andrew Winter, spokesman for the sheriff's department, said he didn't know what the fight was about, and added that at this time, they were the only two known to be involved in the fight.
He said Miller and Solis knew each other. He said Miller lived in Ceres but frequented that apartment complex often. Solis, Winter said, lived in an apartment complex about a block away.
Miller had a criminal history, Winter said, but did not know the details. He added that Miller had recently completed a parole term.
He said Solis had no known record in Stanislaus County, and that the mug shot released to the media was from the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Winter said Miller currently lived in Ceres, although his driver's license listed his address as the same one where the suspect lived.
Denise Finch, who lives across the street, said there was a fight in front of her house, and minutes later, there was a sound of a gunshot.
"I heard a gunshot, and it wasn’t like any other gunhshot," she said. "It was more like a bomb and it woke the whole neighborhood up.
"It's the loudest gunshot I've ever heard."
She said her neighbor called deputies minutes before to report a fight, which occurred in front of Finch's house.
When the deputies arrived about two minutes later, they found Miller on the third step of the complex stairwell.
“I heard him screaming, in a lot of pain," Finch said.
Minutes later, he died.
Finch said there has been a history of partying and fighting at the two-story apartment complex, but shootings?
"Not so much," she said.
She said she knew of Miller, but did not know him.
"There were a lot of friends and family out here upset over the situation," she said.
A man, who asked not to be identified, said he knew Miller since seventh grade in the Waterford-Hickman area and described Miller as "bullheaded," but nice.
"He flew by the seat of his pants," he said.
He said he saw Miller near the steps where he died about an hour before the shooting, and said Miller was "happy." They didn't talk, just exchanged hellos.
He said Miller hung out a lot at that complex, where on Friday afternoon, flowers sat on the stairwell where Miller died.
He said Miller "learned about respect" during his time in prison, acknowledging that he had just gotten off parole. But, he said Miller wasn't a troublemaker.
"He wasn't close to being violent," he said. "But he would fight if he had to."
He said he didn't know where in Ceres Miller was living, and said he didn't know if he was employed.
"It was a job just being Billy," he said.
He said there was a planned vigil at the apartment complex where Miller died scheduled for Friday at 8.
"Waterford is a great community. We have lots of positive things going on. Unfortunately, we are not immune to this kind of this stuff."
Anyone with information about this case is encouraged to contact Detective Frank Soria at (209) 525-7080. Callers can also leave an anonymous tip by calling Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636. Tipsters can also e-mail tips at modestopolice.com/crimestoppers, or text them to CRIMES (274637) by typing "Tip704" plus the message and be eligible for a cash reward.