Wounded man dies; few leads, police say

One shooting victim still critical; no motive found

08/26/2008 12:31 AM

08/26/2008 7:33 AM

One of three men shot near Modesto Airport early Sunday died at the hospital, police said. It's the city's 10th homicide this year.

Alejandro Rangel, 27, of Modesto was pronounced dead not long after midnight Monday, said Sgt. Craig Gundlach of the Modesto Police Department.

Rangel was engaged to be married in January, said family friend Lorena Barajas, 36, of Modesto. Rangel was the best friend of Barajas' younger brother. The men used to take salsa dancing lessons together. She described Rangel as "a good guy" and an architect who was like "an extended part of our family."

"He wasn't a hoodlum. He doesn't fit that profile," she said. "He was always respectful to my mom and dad, the whole family. He was always welcome at our home."

A 30-year-old man who also was shot remains in critical condition. The third victim, a 22-year-old from Modesto, was treated and released from the hospital.

Few details have been released.

"There's not a whole lot we're ruling out," Gundlach said Monday. "We haven't established a motive."

Authorities learned of the shooting at 1:53 a.m. Sunday, when three men arrived at a hospital; each had gunshot wounds. Police are not releasing the hospital's name. The men said they had been shot while driving on Yosemite Boulevard near Riverside Drive, east of Mitchell Road.

A business owner nearby said he heard people running on Riverside, and police approaching, as he was closing his shop. He did not want to give his name for safety reasons.

Many in the neighborhood said they weren't around during the shooting and had not heard about it.

One woman, Norma Martinez, said in Spanish that she heard "loud noises like fireworks" late in the night. She and her husband live in a cul-de-sac just north of Yosemite, and heard seven or eight small explosions.

"My husband came to open the door but he didn't see anything," she said.

Aside from one small pocket of houses, the block where the shooting took place is dusty and commercial. An equipment rental place, a baked goods shop and a strip mall line the north side of the street. Railroad tracks run parallel to the busy boulevard's south side.

Yosemite was closed from Riverside to Trask Lane until 7 a.m. Sunday, Gundlach said, while officers scoured the area.

Johnny Vasquez walked along Yosemite while taking a break from work Monday. He paused in the parking lot of Yosemite Lanes to explain how he'd stumbled upon police Sunday.

Vasquez, 34, of Modesto said he was walking home from a friend's house east of Riverside when police stopped him. Vas- quez said he was walking west on Yosemite toward Riverside between 3 and 4 a.m.

"You can't go this way, it's a serious crime scene," he said the officer told him. He'd heard a single loud explosion earlier in the night and thought maybe there had been a head-on collision.

The officer told him he had to walk through the residential neighborhood north of Yosemite to get home. Vasquez said he tries to avoid Yosemite.

"I don't see a lot of gangbangers around, but they say a lot of stuff happens on this side of town," he said.

Police have not said whether the men shot Sunday had gang connections. Gundlach said police are trying to determine whether the shooter was in a vehicle or on the street.

Detectives have conducted several interviews and are looking for more witnesses.

Police say they hope people may have seen what happened because Yosemite is so busy, with a bowling alley to the west of the crime scene and trucks coming through the area "at all hours" to the east.

"We don't have a lot of information about motives, about suspects, who committed it, the exact location where it occurred," Gundlach said. "Things are real sketchy right now. We're hoping to be able to narrow it down as witnesses come forward."

Police ask anyone with information about the incident to call Detective Dale Lingerfelt in the Crimes Against Persons unit at 572-9551. Tipsters also can call Crime Stoppers at 521-4636, e-mail tips via www.modestopolice.com/CrimeStoppers or text them to 274637 (CRIMES) by typing "Tip704" plus the message. Tipsters can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.

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

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