April 16, 2008

Modesto police want to find people responsible for downtown beatings

Modesto police are asking for help to identify the people involved in assaults earlier this year that left one man dead and another with a traumatic brain injury.

The attacks do not appear to have been related, said Detective Jon Evers of the Modesto Police Department. No arrests have been made.

Both attacks, one in February and one in March, happened downtown on Friday nights. Police say they were isolated events, not signs of a trend.

About 8:30 p.m. Feb. 15, a 57-year-old man was in a parking lot at 1600 G St. when a gold 2002 to 2006 Cadillac Escalade pulled up. There were at least two people in the large sport utility vehicle, Evers said. The Cadillac's driver attacked the 57-year-old, later identified as Daniel Ellis of Modesto. The attackers fled in the Cadillac, which had 24- to 26-inch custom wheels.

Ellis collapsed in the parking lot from his injuries and was taken to Doctors Medical Center. By Feb. 29, he had slipped into a coma and was considered brain dead, Evers said.

Ellis died at the hospital, the Stanislaus County coroner's office said. His death was a homicide, according to his death certificate, which is dated March 14.

Witnesses described Ellis' attacker as a Latino man in his mid-20s with a dark complexion and a "round body." He was about 6 feet tall and weighed about 215 pounds. The man was wearing a white shirt and had short dark hair but no facial hair. His passenger looked similar but was shorter, Modesto police spokesman Sgt. Craig Gundlach said.

Ellis and the men may have exchanged heated words near La Loma Avenue and Burney Street before the beating, Gund-lach said. Ellis walked off and the men in the Cadillac followed him to the G Street parking lot where the attack happened.

It took about two months for police to announce that Ellis' death was a homicide because of complications with his medical status, Gundlach said. Ellis' injuries did not initially appear life-threatening and, when he died, it was not clear whether he died from the beating or a previous medical condition. Police had to wait until the coroner's office ruled Ellis' death a homicide to determine how to classify the case. Public notification then was overlooked, Gundlach said, because police were focused on the investigation.

Brothers beaten

The second attack happened March 15 when two brothers were beaten by about a dozen men after a show at the Fat Cat nightclub in downtown Modesto, police said.

The fight was sparked by a dance with the wrong woman, said Tammy Collado, the young men's mother. Travis Collado, 22, sustained a traumatic head injury and is in a rehabilitation center in San Jose.

That night, Tammy Collado said, a friend of her sons had danced with another man's girlfriend inside the club. Travis Collado was at the Fat Cat with his brother Raymond Collado, 27, and two friends when a group of men confronted them about the dance.

"They ended up in an altercation with (about four) other boys," said Collado, 47, an interior designer. "They all got kicked out of the Fat Cat and were arguing outside. They ended up in a parking lot."

Collado said her sons got separated from their friends and ended up surrounded by about 12 men. The rival group, she said, had called in reinforcements.

"The boys just looked at each other and put their backs to each other," she said. "(The other group) just circled my two and pummeled them to the ground. They were kicked and hit in the face."

According to police, the fight took place in the parking lot of Wachovia Bank, 833 Tenth St., about 1:20 a.m. Travis Collado was beaten unconscious.

The Modesto Junior College student was in a coma for eight days. He suffered four brain bleeds and a broken nose, his mother said. His brother also was beaten, but his injuries did not require hospitalization.

"Travis got the worst of it," she said. "He's going to be OK, but it's going to take a while."

Collado said that, from what her sons told her, the men who attacked them were not gang members.

"It was just a band of guys that was sticking together," she said. She called the attack "vicious" and "violent."

"If you're going to fight, you don't do 12 against two, and then kick them in the head when they're already down," she said.

The same week the Collados were attacked, another young Modesto man was beaten in an unrelated incident in north Modesto. David Richard Cingcon Jr. died from his injuries less than a week later. Police arrested several young men as suspects in the killing. They remain incarcerated pending trial.

Two weeks later, on April 2, police found another man who had been beaten to death just south of Dryden Golf Course. Charles Clem died from multiple blunt force trauma to his head. His death also was a homicide. No arrests have been made, but investigators have several leads in the case, Sgt. Scott Heller said.

"Historically, if there was a street or bar fight, those were very survivable," Heller said. "But there seem to be more of these physical assaults resulting in serious injury. It has us scratching our heads."

Gundlach said the Ellis and Collado attacks were isolated incidents and that people should feel comfortable coming downtown.

"Is it a trend? No. It's simply a venue with a lot of people coming on weekend nights," he said. But, he added, the combination of crowds and alcohol inevitably will lead to violence from time to time. "That's why we're down there."

Patrols downtown

The Police Department has 10 to 12 officers and two sergeants on patrol downtown on spring and summer weekend nights. The officers work out of a small storefront in Tenth Street Plaza, which the department rents on a month-to-month basis. Gundlach said the department's finances will determine whether it will continue to use the office.

Police say they hope witnesses to these assaults will come forward.

"These are basically whodunits," said Modesto police officer Michael Amarillas. "We do need the public's help."

Police ask anyone with information about the attacks to call Detective Jon Evers at 572-9534 or CrimeStoppers at 521-4636. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and may receive a cash reward.

Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at eraguso@modbee.com or 578-2235.

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