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City shootings kill one, injure 7

A shooting Sunday afternoon outside Vintage Faire Mall capped almost 15 hours of violence in Modesto that left a Ceres man dead and seven people wounded.

At 3:40 p.m., a man in his late teens was shot in the upper body outside Vintage Faire Mall near the Starbucks entrance off Sisk Road. His name has not been released.

Forty-five minutes earlier, a 22-year-old Modesto man and a Merced woman in her 30s were shot outside Alex and Sons Market at 515 N. Martin Luther King Drive.

At 1:15 a.m., 19-year-old Samuel Gray died at the Heritage Inn on McHenry Avenue north of Orangeburg Avenue. Police said they believe the gunfire started after two groups of people got into a fight. Four other people were injured.

None of the other wounds is considered lifethreatening. No one is in custody in any of the shootings.

Modesto police Sgt. Craig Gundlach called the eight shootings in one day "uncharacteristic" for the city.

Officials said they believe the afternoon shootings might be related, although they don't know whether they are connected to the motel killing. Police are saying all three appear to be gang-related, although Gund-lach wouldn't say why.

At the mall, the man who was shot knew he might be in trouble, said a friend who works at the mall and asked to remain anonymous.

"He came up to me and said, 'Some guys are going to jump me,'" the mall worker said. "It was four against one. I said, 'I'll back you up.'"

The mall worker said he saw four people looking at his friend strangely and told him to call if he needed help. But he said he didn't have a chance to get involved. Soon afterward, he said, he heard that his friend, whom he's known since childhood, had been shot.

According to police, two groups of people got into an argument inside the mall. Mall security moved them outside, at which point one group left and the other waited for a ride near Starbucks. The first group returned in a white sedan and began shooting at the people waiting outside, authorities said.

Michael Rinsamout, 23, of Ceres works at a kiosk near where the group was waiting. He said he saw, through the glass doors, one young man and three young women standing near the curb.

"A few minutes later, the guy raised his arms, like he was waving at someone, then took off running," he said. Rinsamout said he heard gunshots seconds later.

The victim was hospitalized Sunday night, and police said they expect him to remain in the hospital for several days.

At the store on Martin Luther King Drive, four men in blue shirts and with shaved heads drove by in a white four-door sedan and opened fire with a sawed-off shotgun, officials said. A man was shot in the back and a woman was hit in the head. The woman was released Sunday night from Memorial Medical Center; the man was discharged from Doctors Medical Center the same night.

The cars in the afternoon shootings were described as older white sedans. This, plus other evidence officials haven't discussed publicly, leads police to believe the incidents might be related, Gundlach said.

Gundlach said he considered eight shootings in 15 hours "uncharacteristic for our community" and that he has witnessed an alarming increase in violence in Modesto the past few weeks.

That string includes three armed robberies Thursday night and two takeover-style robberies the week before.

Mall managers said that, despite the violence, shoppers should not be afraid.

"This was about a teenager with a gun not obeying the law," said Maria Halstead, senior property manager for Vintage Faire. "That kind of thing can happen anywhere."

The company she works for has managed the mall since 1997, and there have been no other shootings on the property since then, she said.

Bee archives show a number of shootings over the years:

In July 1997, a gunman opened fire on three men in the mall parking lot, leaving one man with a bullet wound in the leg. Police at the time said the shooting appeared to be a result of bad blood between gangs.

In 1996, a Modesto woman was murdered in the mall parking lot as she and her mother returned to their car.

In 1995, three teens fired at least two shots from a 9mm pistol at four other teens they had argued with, although no one was hit, police said.

And in 1994, six teenagers were charged with attempted murder after a man was shot in the face during a fight outside a fast food restaurant at the mall.

Police ask anyone with information about the crimes to call the Modesto Police Department at 572-9500 or Crime Stoppers at 521-4636. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward.

Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at 578-2235 or