Police scour the city and gangs looking for leads in teen's death

04/27/2008 3:35 AM

04/27/2008 3:38 AM

Modesto police were trying to find answers Saturday after a shooting that left a 14-year-old Modesto boy dead and his friend injured in a west Modesto neighborhood.

Valdimar Rojas Jr., of Modesto, died at the scene Friday night, said Sgt. Craig Gundlach, a Modesto police spokesman.

The slain boy's 15-year-old friend, also of Modesto, was treated and released from a hospital Saturday night, Gundlach said. Police did not release his name to ensure his safety.

The two teens were riding their bicycles along Marlow Street, just north of Robertson Road, when a white sedan drove up next to them, Gundlach said.

The occupants began shooting at the teens, who fled east onto Rock Pine Court. Gundlach said the car chased the boys to the end of the cul-de-sac, and the occupants fired again. The suspects fled as the boys sought refuge in nearby homes.

Gundlach said residents called 911, and responding officers and paramedics found the two injured teens on the ground.

He said the suspects and the victims are believed to be members of rival gangs.

The Modesto police Street Crimes Unit, along with detectives and other officers, were out Saturday contacting known gang members, conducting probation and parole searches and making traffic stops throughout the city.

The shooting came a few hours after a toddler was shot and critically wounded while playing in front of his west Modesto home in the 200 block of H Street.

While both attacks appear to be gang-related and occurred in west Modesto, there was no indication Saturday night that the two were related, Gund-lach said. The cases were being investigated separately.

No suspects had been identified and no arrests had been made as of late Saturday. Gundlach said residents shouldn't tolerate an attack that killed such a young boy.

"We know there are people out there that know exactly what happened," Gundlach said. "They know who these shooters are and they know where they are."

Several neighbors sat outside their homes Saturday afternoon as they talked about the teens who were attacked outside their homes.

The neighbors declined to give their names for fear of gang retaliation, but they said they had never seen the boys before they came looking for help Friday night.

"They just came here seeking help because there was nowhere else to run," said a man sitting on his front lawn. "We don't want the shooters to come back thinking (the victims) lived here."

Modesto police asked anyone with information about this attack to call Detective Jon Evers at 572-9534 or CrimeStoppers at 521-4636. Callers to CrimeStoppers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.

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

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