Six men and women were arrested Friday in connection with an apparent gang-related slaying of a 20-year-old man in northeast Modesto.
Erick Gomez was identified as the victim in the fatal shooting and stabbing Thursday night in the 2400 block of Vera Cruz Drive. Investigators believe a 17-year-old girl who suffered critical stab wounds about the same time was among the group of suspects, said Lt. Rick Armendariz of the Modesto Police Department.
Those arrested were Nancy Rodriguez, 18, of Modesto; Jeanette Robles, 20, of Modesto; Elida Carranza, 21, of Modesto; Jesse James Sebourn, 22, of Ceres; Lisandro Mendoza, 20, of Winton; and Jenna Cheyenne Sebourn, 20, of San Mateo, who is the sister of Jesse James Sebourn.
Police said all the suspects are Sureño gang members and the victim was a Norteño gang member.
The neighborhood southeast of Floyd Avenue and Coffee Road has been considered Norteño turf by the gang over the years, according to gang experts. Neighbors in the area not involved in gangs are fed up with the violence, especially the gunshots they hear on a weekly basis.
One resident of Vera Cruz Drive said that on Friday he and his wife discussed moving out of the area. But he added, "I think you just get immune to it after a while, as long as it's not coming through the wall or the window."
The neighborhood's latest victim died at a hospital after being shot and stabbed at a fourplex in the 2400 block of Vera Cruz, the same location where, the year before, two teenagers were shot to death.
Gomez was walking in the area when the suspects pulled up in at least two different cars and verbally confronted him. The argument quickly escalated when the suspects got out of the vehicles, at which point Gomez tried to run away, Armendariz said.
The suspects allegedly chased Gomez, physically assaulted him, then stabbed and shot him several times. Information on whether weapons were recovered was unavailable.
As officers were at the scene investigating the shooting on Vera Cruz, police were dispatched to a local hospital for a report that a 17-year-old girl was in the emergency room with stab wounds. Investigators believe the stabbing victim and her friends, who were at the hospital with her, were responsible in Gomez's death. The 17-year-old's friends were arrested. Armendariz did not know whether she, too, would face charges.
Investigators still don't know why she was stabbed or by whom. She had emergency surgery and remains in stable condition.
Four days before the attack, a candlelight vigil was held on Vera Cruz to mark the one-year anniversary of the shooting deaths of Rolando Luna, 15, and Andrew Ensey, 19. Both victims also were Norteño gang members, police said. Armendariz said it is too soon to know if their deaths were connected to Gomez's.
Friday night, a vigil for Gomez was held on Vera Cruz, and several officers were there to monitor the situation.
Gang activity has plagued the neighborhood for several years, but there has been an influx of Norteño gang members from west Modesto since last year's shooting, said Modesto police gang Detective Sean Martin.
Mounting tensions between Norteño and Sureño gang members is evident in the graffiti on the back wall of a business in the Coffee Plaza Shopping Center, across the street from the shooting scene. Gang graffiti and monikers have been crossed out by rival gang members several times over — a major sign of disrespect in their world, Martin said. "RIP Luna" was scrawled on a nearby trash bin.
Neighbors who have lived in the area for years have watched it deteriorate, and some are ready to leave. They say the gang members don't confront or intimidate them, but they are afraid of becoming collateral damage from the violence.
Pamela Caron lives in an apartment on Vera Cruz with her 14-year-old son, who has Down syndrome. "At least once or twice a week, I'm hearing gunfire and I am grabbing my kid and hiding in the laundry room," she said.
Investigators ask anyone with information on the Thursday incident to call Detective Robert Gumm at (209) 342-9162 or Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a cash reward. Tipsters can text information to Crime Stoppers by sending a text message to 274637; type "TIP704" plus a message.
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2366. Follow her on Twitter, @ModestoBeeCrime.
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