Teen arrested in Riverbank shooting

Riverbank case among series of recent attacks

August 12, 2010 

Stanislaus County sheriff's officials Thursday afternoon arrested one of three suspects wanted in the shooting death of 21-year-old Chaz Bettencourt last week outside outside a Riverbank minimarket.

Jah-Kari Phyall, 15, of Turlock was found about 2 p.m. in Modesto and was taken into custody without further incident, said deputy Andrew Winter, a sheriff's spokesman. Detectives did not release further information about his arrest.

The arrest in one case came less than a day after a shooting death in Westley. Sheriff's homicide investigators say Anthony Bueno, 21, of Newman was shot and killed Wednesday night near Livingston Circle and Griscott Way. No suspects have been identified.

The Riverbank shooting occurred Aug. 5 in the am-pm minimarket parking lot at Oakdale and Patterson roads after Bettencourt got into a dispute with three suspects.

Detectives still are looking for Daniel Pantoja, 18, of Riverbank and Turlock Diaz, 14, of Turlock.

Phyall was being held Thursday night at Stanislaus County Juvenile Hall on suspicion of murder and carjacking with gang-related enhancements to his charges.

The two remaining suspects also are wanted on suspicion of murder. Sheriff's officials said Pantoja and Diaz should be considered armed and dangerous.

Stanislaus County Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to arrests in the case.

The Sheriff's Department has handled nine homicide cases this year. In four of them, Winter said, no suspects have been identified.

"I don't know if there's a rhyme or reason," he said. "Some of them have been gang-related, some of them have not. Things have definitely gotten busy for us."

Sheriff's detectives are trying to find out what happened June 11, when Brian Morris, 30, of Modesto was found shot to death near a vacant lot near Carver and Costner roads north of Modesto.

Detectives have released a surveillance photo of the man sought for questioning. Sheriff's officials described him as black, in his mid-to-late 30s and weighing about 250 pounds. They do not know his identity.

He last was seen driving a white mid-'90s Ford Taurus, or similar vehicle, away from a Stop 'N Save Groceries & Liquor at Carver and Standiford Avenue in Modesto.

Out of the nine homicide cases, Winter said three cases have resulted in arrests and two cases have identified suspects who are at large.

"They've happened in areas where there are not a lot of people around," Winter said of the cases in which suspects have not been identified or arrested. "We've released surveillance videos in some of those cases, but nobody has come forward."

He said some tipsters might hesitate to call authorities because they feel the information they have is insignificant.

"A lot of times, it's the little details and bits of information that gets the ball rolling," Winter said.

Also this week, Newman police are investigating a gang-related drive-by shooting late Tuesday that injured an 18-year-old man near Main and Tulare streets.

The victim suffered a gunshot wound to the bottom of his foot. His name was not released.

Witnesses told police they saw a blue Honda with tinted windows and a spoiler, and that someone inside was firing a gun at a group of people.

Officers recovered shell casings at the scene. No suspects have been arrested.

Sheriff's officials ask anyone with information about the Riverbank shooting or the suspects' whereabouts to call Detective Jon McQueary at 525-7099. To provide tips on any shooting, callers can call Crime Stoppers at 521-4636. Tipsters can e-mail tips through the Crime Stoppers Web site, www.stancrimetips.org, or text tips to CRIMES (274637) by typing "Tip704" and a message. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward.

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

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