A 28-year-old Merced man injured in a shootout with Modesto police three years ago has been sentenced to three consecutive life terms in prison, according to the Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office.
Juan Tinoco was the only person injured in the May 31, 2015, shootout just east of downtown Modesto near the Starbucks after a volley of gunfire erupted at the end of a police chase.
Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Scott Steffen on May 23 sentenced Tinoco to serve the terms with an additional four years in prison for using a gun in his crimes, prosecutors announced this week.
Tinoco on March 9 pleaded no contest to three counts of attempted murder of a police officer along with the gun enhancement. Deputy District Attorney Jeff Laugero prosecuted the case.
Tinoco was hospitalized and treated for his wounds before he was booked at the Stanislaus County Jail a few days after the shooting. Two other men, also from Merced, were with Tinoco inside the Toyota Camry that sped away from police officers that night.
Andrew Hernandez was arrested, but prosecutors later dropped all charges against him and he has been released from jail. Authorities said there is no evidence Hernandez fired at police. He was the only person who remained in the Camry after the chase ended.
Steven Vasquez pleaded no contest to assault with a gun on a police officer. Steffen sentenced Vasquez to six years in prison for the shooting.
About 11:20 p.m., police responded to reports of a fight involving several people at the taco trucks near Eighth and H streets. Dispatchers told officers the suspects were spotted lifting their shirts to display guns in their waistbands.
Officers spotted a car matching the witness description and tried to pull it over, but the Camry sped away. A police pursuit ensued and continued to Downey Avenue near 19th Street in downtown Modesto.
The police officers involved in the shootout were Sgt. Lance Nicolai and officers Glenn Graves and Daniel Starr.
In a May 2016 preliminary hearing, Nicolai testified that the chase ended when a patrol car intentionally hit the Camry, forcing the car into a spin before it hit a curb. The impact lifted the car momentarily onto two wheels before it crashed down.
When the car crashed against the curb, police said, Tinoco got out and began to fire at officers. Vasquez, later identified as the driver, also got out and fired at the officers.
Nicolai said in court that Tinoco was running and stumbling away from the Camry, before he fell and got up, firing two more shots at police. Then, Tinoco collapsed near Johnson Street.
Two shots from the suspects hit Graves’ patrol car, going through a bumper and hitting a wheel. Those were direct shots from the suspects, according to police. Another shot skipped off the ground and struck the grill on Nicolai’s patrol car.
Tinoco on Friday was serving his sentence at San Quentin State Prison. Prosecutors said Tinoco could become eligible for an early parole hearing because he was 25 at the time of the shooting. The state's Youthful Offender Act can accelerate his parole hearing date.