Crime

Why the Modesto nightclub where shooting occurred was on police department’s radar

Three people shot at Modesto’s Tilted Turtle nightclub during rap show

Three people were shot – two critically injured – at a rap show at the Tilted Turtle Bar & Grill in Modesto, CA, on Sunday, April 21, 2019.
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Three people were shot – two critically injured – at a rap show at the Tilted Turtle Bar & Grill in Modesto, CA, on Sunday, April 21, 2019.

As two shooting victims remained in critical condition, Modesto police said Monday that the Tilted Turtle Bar & Grill had been on the department’s radar for at least a month because investigators believed the business was a hangout for Norteño gang members.

No one had been arrested and detectives were not saying if any suspects had been identified a day after three people were shot at a hip-hop concert at the nightclub on North Ninth Street.

A 25-year-old woman and a 27-year-old man were critically injured in the early Sunday morning shooting. The other victim suffered nonlife-threatening injuries.

Officials also are looking into whether the concert violated any municipal codes or conditions of the establishment’s entertainment permit, said Modesto police Capt. Brandon Gillespie.

He said the concert was advertised and promoted, and the event included a “regional draw” with performers and patrons from outside the Modesto area.

That makes the concert an “exclusive event,” which requires a 24-day prior written notification to police as a condition of the entertainment permit. Gillespie said the club did not make that notification prior to the concert.

“Which is a big deal to us, because it is one of the ways we avoid things like this from happening, by being able to vet the acts,” he said.

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Lists of rules and dress code posted on Monday April 22, 2019, outside the Tilted Turtle Bar & Grill at at 710 N. Ninth Street in Modesto, California. On April 21, 2019, the nightclub was the scene of a shooting that injured three people. Rosalio Ahumada rahumada@modbee.com

As part of the vetting process, police officials would check the performers’ social media. Gillespie said officials also would look into the performers’ possible gang affiliation, check with other jurisdictions about problems at other concerts, and look for “anything that is going to indicate violence.”

Police could require additional security guards to work at the event.

Marianne Magaña took ownership of the bar — open to those 21 years or older — in 2018.

“The Tilted Turtle Business Account is currently delinquent by three quarters,” said Modesto city spokesman Thomas Reeves.

That also is a violation of the entertainment permit. Gillespie said the business could face municipal citations or have its permit revoked.

Magaña was at the club Monday afternoon but declined to talk to reporters.

Her fiance walked out of the club and spoke briefly to reporters. He declined to give his name. He confirmed that Magaña owns the club, and that they were not at the business when the shooting occurred at about 12:30 a.m. Sunday.

He said they hired others to run the day-to-day operations, and added that they could not discuss what happened because they were still trying to figure out what led up to the shooting and what occurred in its aftermath.

He said investigators confiscated security camera footage. Magaña and her fiance were at the club Monday preparing to get it ready to reopen by Wednesday.

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Here is the scene Sunday morning, hours after three people were shot inside the Tilted Turtle Bar & Grill at 710 N. Ninth Street in Modesto, CA, on Sunday, April 21, 2019. Brian Clark bclark@modbee.com

Police spokewoman Sharon Bear has said the club had a scheduled event the night of the shooting “with numerous performers and a packed house.”

A flier posted on the nightclub’s Facebook page — that post has since been removed — indicated there was a “420 Music Festival” scheduled. Among those scheduled to perform was rap artist 3rd World Lil Blood.

Also on the flier and scheduled to perform were Young Chop and Oakland-based Ally Cocaine. It remained unclear on Monday which rapper or group was performing at the time of the shooting.

Magaña’s fiance said this wasn’t the first time the business had hosted a concert for 3rd World Lil Blood. He said the club has hosted similar concerts, but they never experienced anything like the shooting.

He said they always have security guards, and that safety measures include using handheld metal detectors to screen people before they enter. But on Monday, he said he couldn’t discuss what type of measures were present for the concert without knowing more details.

There was a reported assault outside the club on April 5. Gillespie said an officer driving by spotted about 40 to 50 people outside; one man was on the ground unconscious. The man was reportedly punched by someone in the crowd.

Gillespie said most of the people were wearing red clothing. Norteño street gang members typically wear red clothing to signify their gang affiliation. Gillespie said no suspects have been identified in that assault.

Signs posted at the club’s entrance seen Monday list a strict dress code that includes no gang colors, club patches or vests, baggy clothes or baseball caps.

A witness who was standing outside of the nightclub at the time of Sunday’s shooting reported hearing shots as several people began running, hopping over fences and leaving the area. The witness also told The Bee that several vehicles sped away as officers began blanketing the area.

Purported video from the scene shows a crowd of at least 100 people gathered at the nightclub listening to a rapper, when five shots were fired. That video has since been removed from Facebook.

An entertainment permit filed with the City of Modesto indicates that the nightclub has a capacity limit of 280 people indoors and 130 people in an outdoor patio.

On Monday afternoon, one woman, who said she was there when the shooting occurred, returned to the club hoping to retrieve her purse. She said she left it behind in the moments after the shooting.

She declined to give her name or discuss what she experienced when shots rang out.

“I can’t talk about it,” she said. “I just don’t want to get involved.”

On Sunday evening, the club’s owners and operators posted online a response to the shooting.

“We here at the tilted turtle want to send our deepest condolences to all, last night was a great event that took a turn for the worst,” according to the Facebook post. “Security and staff and every one around that tried their best in that state we thank you and apologize about the situation that took place.”

The club at 710 N. Ninth St., north of Coldwell Avenue, sits adjacent to the Travelers Motel. Employees working at the motel’s front counter said the nightclub has never experienced a shooting since it changed ownership.

A license to serve alcohol at the Tilted Turtle is held by Magaña, according to records from the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

The agency has reported no disciplinary actions associated with the nightclub. The business also has event and caterer permits from the state agency.

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Rosalio Ahumada writes news stories about criminal court cases in Stanislaus County for The Modesto Bee, issues related to immigration and immigrant communities and breaking news related to crime and public safety. From time to time, he covers the Modesto City Council meetings. He has worked as a news reporter in the Northern San Joaquin Valley since 2004.

Erin has been covering breaking news and crime at The Modesto Bee since 2010. She is a Humboldt State graduate and resides in Oakdale.

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