Modesto man fatally shot ID'd as ex-Enochs, current Stanislaus St. student

Family that helped care for Ricky Miranda say he was despondent Saturday and called for help

03/20/2011 7:44 PM

03/21/2011 5:33 PM

When Enochs High School wrestling coach and his wife tried to get help for a troubled teen they never imagined officers would knock on their door hours later to tell them the young man was dead.

Duane and Julie Brooks identified the 19-year-old man shot and killed by an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer Saturday afternoon as Ricky Miranda, a former standout Enochs’ wrestler and California State University, Stanislaus, freshman.

The Brooks said officers broke the news that evening to them at their rural Oakdale home. The Brooks were longtime friends of Miranda and took him into their home when he was in high school.

They said he showed up on their doorstep Saturday morning and told them he wanted to die. They called 911 and a sheriff’s deputy took Miranda to Doctors Behavioral Health Center in Modesto. Miranda escaped hours later from the Claus Road facility and was fatally shot after trying to break into homes, police said.

“It’s unfortunate he didn’t get to stay in a place where he could get some help,” Duane Brooks said.

“We just thought we were sending him to the safest place possible,” Julie Brooks said.

A Doctors Behavioral Health Center spokeswoman said Sunday that the facility is investigating how the young man escaped and declined to provide additional information.

Also on Sunday, Modesto police did not release the names of the man who was fatally shot and the CHP officer who shot him or other additional details. The CHP referred inquires to Modesto police.

The Brooks took Miranda into their home more than a year ago when the teen was on Duane Brooks’ wrestling team at Enochs. Miranda’s father had never been in his life, the couple said, and his mother had lost custody years earlier.

Ricky Miranda lived with his older brother Patrick Miranda, but he would often stay with the Brooks. The couple has seven children, and Miranda liked the lively household. Patrick Miranda could not be reached for comment, but the Brooks said he has been told of his brother’s death.

Ricky Miranda moved out over the summer, just before beginning his freshman year at California State University, Stanislaus. He was on a scholarship, living in the dorms. A whiz at math, he hoped to become an engineer.

“We called him Google because that kid knew everything,” said Robert Gill, 21, who befriended Miranda when Miranda attended Enochs with Gill’s younger brother and cousin. “He was super smart. Every time I mentioned the oddest thing, Ricky knew everything about it.”

Others friends also had fond memories of Miranda.

“He always made people feel at home,” said Everitt Jameson, a former Enochs teammate. “He was a friend to everyone. He would take the younger members of the wrestling team under his wing.”

Saturday morning, Miranda told the Brooks he had walked from the university in Turlock to their rural Oakdale home, the couple said, a distance of more than 20 miles.

“He was just really upset,” Julie Brooks said. “He talked about killing himself. It was evident he needed help.”

Added her husband: “We hadn’t seen him like that before. It was odd. It wasn’t Ricky, as we knew him.”

The Brooks called 911.

Sheriff’s Lt. Charles Grom said Sunday that the call came in about 8:30 a.m. He said a deputy evaluated Miranda and decided to place him under a 72-hour involuntary psychiatric hold at Doctors Behavioral Health Center, where Miranda would be evaluated.

Grom said based on his review of the dispatch records it appears Miranda tried to run away as the deputy escorted him into the mental health facility and had to restrain Miranda.

“Looking at the call,” Grom said, “this is something we handle frequently. I don’t see anything out of the ordinary.”

Modesto police said the young man escaped from the center just before 5 p.m. Several 911 callers reported seeing him run in front of traffic on East Briggsmore Avenue near Claus Road.

Police said he then swam across the canal and ran into the neighborhood on Densmore Lane . Several more 911 callers reported the man tried to break into homes. He broke the front window of one occupied home and tried to get inside.

Witnesses told investigators the man armed himself with a large piece of glass from the window and started cutting himself, police said.

An off-duty CHP officer in the area contacted the man. The officer shot the man, who was taken to a hospital where he died of his injuries.

The Brooks said they don’t have any ill feelings toward the off-duty officer. And they said they feel for the family who was in the home the young man broke into.

“We feel really horrible for the family in the home,” Julie Brooks said. “At the same time, we wonder how did he get out of there? We took him to where we thought he would be safe.”

The CHP will conduct an internal investigation and Modesto police detectives will handle the criminal investigation because it occurred in their jurisdiction.

The Stanislaus County district attorney’s office also will investigate the incident, which is standard in officer-involved shootings.

Bee staff writer Kerry McCray can be reached at 578-2358. Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at 578-2316.

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