A machete-wielding man was shot to death Saturday in west Modesto after he tried to take another man hostage during a fight, police said.
Richard Perez, 43, was shot several times in front of a Valero gas station on Maze Boulevard and died at the scene, according to the Modesto Police Department.
Seven or eight men in two cars gathered at the station about 1 a.m., witnesses said.
"It looks like they were just stopping there for some gas and hanging out afterwards," said officer Ivan Valencia.
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Perez, who lived near the station, got in a confrontation with the group and approached them holding a large machete, witnesses told police.
Perez grabbed one man, holding the machete to his throat, police said. Another man pulled out a handgun and pleaded with Perez to let the hostage go, police said.
The gunman fired warning shots, then shot Perez, witnesses said. The hostage escaped unharmed, and the group fled.
"This appears to be a case where the shooting may have been justified," Detective Dodge Hendee said.
Valencia said investigators are reviewing images from the gas station's surveillance cameras. Witnesses told police that the group consisted of males ages 18 to 25. One of the cars may have been a silver four-door sedan, Valencia said.
It was the city's second slaying of the year. The first was Jan. 7, when 19-year-old Samuel Gray died after a party at a McHenry Avenue motel turned violent. No arrests have been made.
Investigators ask anyone with information about the shooting to contact the Modesto Police Department at 572-9500 or Crime Stoppers at 521-4636.