Suspects in Riverbank mini-mart shooting arrested

2 wanted in death of man found in Redding

September 13, 2010 

REDDING -- The final two suspects wanted in the August shooting death of a 21-year-old Riverbank man were arrested Monday in Redding.

Shasta County Sheriff's Department deputies spotted a man matching the description of Daniel Pantoja, who also was wanted for an assault earlier this summer at a Redding convenience store. (Click here for the video)

The man fled on foot into a nearby house after seeing police. Deputies and members of the Redding Police Department surrounded and then entered the house.

Pantoja, 18, of Riverbank, and Turlock Diaz, 14, of Turlock were found inside and arrested without incident, said Redding Police Department gang investigator Rex Berry.

"We knew (Pantoja) was wanted for the Stanislaus County incident as well," Berry said. "We'd been working closely with detectives from Stanislaus and sharing information because there were ties to both communities."

The news of the arrests came as a relief for Chaz Bettencourt's family.

"My first reaction was joy and crying," said his mother, Michelle Bettencourt. "I had faith that the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department would do their job because they have been working so hard. I'm ecstatic that justice is going to be served. My biggest fear was that they were not going to be caught."

Pantoja, Diaz and Jah-Kari Phyall, 15, of Turlock are suspected in the shooting death of Chaz Bettencourt on Aug. 5 outside a convenience store in Riverbank after a dispute with three suspects.

Phyall was arrested Aug. 12 and charged with murder; he remains in Stanislaus County Juvenile Hall.

Pantoja and Diaz are being held in Shasta County and awaiting transport to Stanislaus County, where they face charges of homicide, attempted carjacking and criminal gang enhancements, according to a Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department news release.

Officials said the suspects are affiliated with gangs, but they do not believe Bettencourt's killing was related to gang activity. Bettencourt had gone to the store shortly after midnight to buy soft drinks, according to his family.

Authorities said he and a friend were confronted by the three suspects, who demanded the friend's car. Bettencourt was shot after his friend went back into the store to have an employee call 911.

Jon McQueary, a Stanislaus County sheriff's detective, said Bettencourt was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

"They went to the store to get something to drink and unfortunately met up with these three people," he said. "It looks like they were trying to carjack their vehicle."

Pantoja has a $100,000 warrant for his arrest in Shasta County, charging him with assault with a deadly weapon and participation in a criminal street gang stemming from the June 6 beating of a man inside a Circle K store.

Police say Pantoja was one of two men who attacked a man inside the store and then shot at him from a car later that day. Police said the shooting was the result of a gang confrontation.

Members of Bettencourt's family said they are girding themselves for a trial or trials for the suspects. Michelle Bettencourt hopes there is one trial and not three.

"That's three different wounds," she said. "That takes a toll on a family."

But she said the family will be strong for Chaz.

"Now we are his voice, his eyes, his ears," she said. "He was such a good person. His life was taken so short."

Anyone with information about the Bettencourt case is encouraged to call the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department at 525-7099. Callers can leave an anonymous tip by calling Crime Stoppers at 521-4636.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine contributed to this report.

Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at mrowland@modbee.com or 578-2284.

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