Family gathers in Modesto to mourn teen killed at Riverbank party

11/26/2012 7:50 PM

11/26/2012 9:58 PM

Family and friends of a young man who was killed at a Riverbank house party over the weekend gathered at his home in west Modesto for a candlelight vigil Monday evening.

Damien King, 18, died after being shot about 11:30 p.m. Saturday at the ranch-style home in the 4700 block of Terminal Avenue.

"He was my heart. People need to think before they do things, because you can't come back from this," said King's mother, Angie Prieto Sheppard.

Standing in her doorway Monday, she wept as she clutched one of her son's shirts and breathed in his scent.

King was the father of a baby girl named Aliah who will be 1 in January. He was a Modesto High senior. Prieto Sheppard, who works as a behavioral health specialist, said King also wanted to help people and planned to study to become a juvenile probation officer after graduation.

He attended the party Saturday night with his best friend, Jesus Alcantar, who said the shooting happened just after a fistfight King was in with a man he saw dancing with the mother of his child.

King, like many in attendance, it seemed, learned about the party through social networking sites, according to Alcantar.

Alcantar said neither he nor King knew the people who held the party.

A man at the home Monday said in Spanish that he did not want to comment about the party or the shooting.

Neighbor unaware of shooting

A next-door neighbor, who identified himself only as Larry, said the man's son came to his house about 7:30 p.m. Saturday to tell him he was throwing a party for his cousin's birthday. Larry said the son, who is 17 or 18, always has been polite and respectful. He told Larry he had hired a disc jockey for the party and that if the music got too loud, he could call him.

But Larry couldn't hear the music — or gunshots, for that matter. He woke Sunday morning to find someone had vandalized a sign in his front yard that says he sells firewood. He didn't learn of the shooting until Monday.

On Monday afternoon, broken bottles and trash in front of the home were among the remnants of the large gathering that became a crime scene.

Alcantar said there were at least 150 people in attendance when he and King got there. Before the shooting, Alcantar said King saw another man dancing with his child's mother, which precipitated a fight.

About five minutes after the fight, Alcantar said someone fired several rounds into the garage where people were dancing. Seconds later, four more shots were fired, he said.

Alcantar wasn't near King when he was shot and said he couldn't identify the shooter. He said he didn't know the person King fought with but said it wasn't the same person who fired the gun.

People scattered after the shots. Stanislaus County sheriff's Sgt. Anthony Bejaran said few people remained by the time deputies arrived.

He would not comment on Alcantar's account of the shooting and said detectives have not identified a suspect.

Memories and prayers

About 75 people attended the vigil for King at his west Modesto home Monday evening. Family and friends shared memories of him, said prayers, offered rosaries and lit candles.

"Damien was a very charismatic, touching, loving child," said his uncle Jeffrey Johnson. "I know tragedy strikes 100 times a day, but it is different when it strikes your family."

Detectives are asking anyone with information about this investigation to call Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636. Tipsters can e-mail tips at www.modestopolice.com/crimestoppers, or text them to CRIMES (274637) by typing "Tip704" plus the message and be eligible for a reward.

Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at etracy@modbee.com or (209)578-2366. Follow her on Twitter, @ModestoBeeCrime.


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