September 7, 2008

Task force IDs 3 suspects in Modesto gang fight, fatal shooting

A regional gang task force Saturday identified three suspects in a shooting that killed a 35-year-old Modesto man during a gang-related fight Wednesday night in south Modesto.

The task force identified Javier Gomez, 22, Alex Mares, 21, and Armando Pulido, 25, all of Modesto, as the suspects involved in the shooting.

The suspects are documented Norteño gang members and were last were seen leaving the shooting scene in a dark- colored newer model Honda Accord, said Sgt. Brian Findlen, a Modesto police spokesman.

He said the car is described as a four-door 2004 Honda Accord with a California license plate 5ZAR997.

Officers found Victor Gaona lying in the street. He was taken by ambulance to a Modesto hospital, where he died.

Since then, members of the Central Valley Gang Impact Task Force launched an extensive investigation that led them to serve several search warrants throughout Stanislaus and Alameda counties, Findlen said.

The investigators gathered evidence, but declined to comment further to safeguard their investigation.

"Investigators are committed to removing these violent felons from the streets," said Modesto police Sgt. Rick Armendariz, a supervisor for the task force.

The task force is a federally funded countywide group that has members from local law enforcement agencies and the FBI.

About 11:15 p.m. Wednesday, officers responded to reports of shots fired near Ustick Road and Dezzani Lane, just south of West Hatch Road.

When officers arrived, they found Gaona injured and administered CPR before he was taken by the ambulance, Findlen said. No other injuries were reported.

He said the initial investigation suggests the fight started between two groups of people near Dezzani and Ustick. Investigators believe Gaona was involved in the fight, but they did not know to what extent.

Several shots were fired, and a dark-colored compact-style vehicle was seen heading north on Ustick toward Hatch, Findlen said.

This was the third fatal shooting in Modesto in 11 days. All are unsolved. Findlen said investigators believe Gaona's death was gang-related, and there was no indication the three shootings are linked.

Karl Johnson, 39, was shot and killed in the early hours of Aug. 30 in his northeast Modesto home just south of Ustach Middle School. He was taken by ambulance to a Modesto hospital, where he died.

Alejandro Rangel, 27, of Modesto, was shot in the early hours of Aug. 24 on Yosemite Boulevard in southeast Modesto. He died in a hospital two days later.

Rangel was one of three men shot. A 30-year-old man remained at a hospital Thursday, but his condition was not available. The third victim, a 22-year-old man, was treated and released from a hospital.

Gaona's death was Modesto's 12th homicide this year.

Modesto police ask anyone with information about the whereabouts of these suspects or the vehicle to call 911. Anyone who witnessed the shooting is asked to call the Central Valley Gang Impact Task Force at 538-5636.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at or 578-2394.

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