February 24, 2008

Suspect dies in Turlock robbery bid

TURLOCK -- An apparent home robbery had a deadly ending when two men suspected of breaking in were shot, leaving one dead and another critically injured, police investigators said Saturday.

The 21-year-old break-in victim wasn't shot, and suffered minor injuries, his family said Saturday.

The man who died, James Watkins, 36, of Turlock, was arrested two years ago in connection with the November 2005 fire that gutted the downtown Carnegie Arts Center after a burglary, according to Turlock police Lt. Carl Nielsen.

In the Friday night break-in, police investigators say they believe Watkins and Frederick Osborne, 35, of Denair, kicked open the door at a home in the 300 block of South Broadway Avenue, two blocks south of City Hall.

Watkins was shot at least twice, said Sgt. Steven Williams, a Turlock police spokesman. Osborne was shot once in the head and taken by ambulance to an area hospital, where he was listed in critical condition.

It was unclear to the victim's family and to investigators who shot Watkins and Osborne.

Williams said police did not find a gun and investigators believe a fourth person was involved. Investigators did not know that person's identity or relationship to the victim or the suspects.

"This is an ongoing investigation and we're following up on all leads," Williams said.

Robbery victim not charged

Police investigators interviewed the victim, who was released and not charged with a crime. The victim was not at home Saturday afternoon and could not be reached for comment.

Police and the victim's family declined to give his name to ensure his safety.

At 10:14 p.m. on Friday, police received a report of a robbery in progress with shots fired at the home.

The shooting occurred inside a bedroom converted from a shed. It sits a few feet behind the home, and is only big enough to fit a full-sized bed, nightstand, makeshift closet and small entertainment center.

Police said the victim was in the room alone when the door was forced open. The victim's family said the door was not locked but the suspects kicked it open.

Williams said a struggle ensued, and several shots were fired.

The victim was in bed and did not know Watkins or Osborne, said the victim's 23-year-old sister, who declined to give her name.

"They were trying to get inside and fighting with my brother," she said. "They were hitting him in the face with the guns."

The items inside her brother's bedroom were in disarray Saturday afternoon, apparently the result of a struggle and the following crime scene investigation. Dark red blood stains were splattered near the entrance.

She said her brother did not have a gun, and Watkins and Osborne were wearing masks; one looked like a makeshift ski mask and the other like a Halloween mask, she said.

Watkins was a co-defendant in the arts center fire, which occurred during the middle of a $1 million remodeling and expansion project.

Watkins a defendant in fire case

Last summer, a judge sentenced Frank Leal Medeiros, 22, of Turlock to seven years in prison after he pleaded no contest to arson and second-degree burglary. Watkins had similar charges.

In December 2006, 11 months after he was picked up in connection with the arts center fire, Watkins was arrested by Turlock police after officers found a stash of stolen goods in his apartment.

Turlock police ask that anyone with information about this shooting to call Detective Brandon Bertram at 668-5550, ext. 6623.

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

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