Crime

Neighbors describe south Modesto hostage situation that ended with fatal shooting

Watch video from the scene of hostage situation in Modesto

Scene from Olivero Road in Modesto, California, on June 6, 2019.
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Scene from Olivero Road in Modesto, California, on June 6, 2019.

Update: Authorities reveal new details and images of SWAT team rescuing boy held hostage in south Modesto.

The armed man in south Modesto who took a boy hostage for several hours first confronted a couple next door, pointing a rifle at the man’s chest. Stanislaus County Sheriff’s deputies later killed the man.

Authorities on Friday identified the deceased suspect as Jose Jesus Astorga, Jr. of Modesto.

The sheriff’s department described the hostage situation, which took place in the 200 block of Olivero Road, in a news release: Astorga entered the house, where three children were, about 1:30 p.m. Thursday. Witnesses said two of the children, a 12-year-old girl and a 17-year-old girl, managed to escape. Astorga took the remaining child, a 14-year-old boy, hostage.

Authorities were called at 1:42 p.m. Sheriff’s deputies, Modesto police officers and SWAT teams from both agencies “were activated,” the release said. Hostage negotiators tried to communicate with Astorga for several hours but he didn’t respond. The 14-year-old then tried to escape, “but was prevented from leaving by the suspect,” the release said. “The juvenile was rescued from the suspect by the Stanislaus sheriff’s SWAT team. During the rescue, the suspect was killed.”

The boy didn’t suffer any major injuries, authorities said.

They have not said who shot the suspect.

On Olivero Road Friday, a woman and her husband said they encountered the suspect just before the incident.

The woman, who asked not to be identified, and her husband had just walked out of their south Modesto home Thursday afternoon, when they spotted a man holding a rifle. He appeared high on drugs, telling the couple he was being chased.

“He placed the rifle’s muzzle on my husband’s chest,” the woman told The Bee. “He threatened us. He wanted us to take him away in our car.”

The armed man ran away without harming the couple, but returned about 15 minutes later. This time, he broke into the neighbor’s home.

The woman said she and her husband did not know who the suspect was, and there was no indication the gunman and the family next door knew each other. The Sheriff’s Department described the suspect as an “unknown male.”

Man appeared on drugs

“I didn’t see him with a gun initially,” she said in Spanish. “He appeared high on drugs.”

The gunman first spoke to the couple in English. After he recognized that they couldn’t understand him, the gunman spoke to the couple in Spanish.

“He wanted to get in my car,” she said. “He kept saying ‘They’re chasing me. They want to drug me some more.’ That they wanted to give him an injection.”

The gunman didn’t tell the couple who he thought was chasing him or where he wanted the couple to take him. The woman, who was inside the car, said the gunman tried to open one of their car doors, but she quickly locked them. Then the man confronted her husband, who was outside the car.

“He was telling us not to call the police,” she said. “At one point, he shattered the car’s (backseat passenger) window.”

After threatening the couple and momentarily holding her husband at gunpoint, the gunman ran off, she said.

Frightened couple

The woman said they didn’t know what to do after the gunman had threatened them to not call authorities.

“We were scared,” she said. “But I told my husband that we couldn’t just let this armed man roam around.”

They decided to call their landlord, who lives across the street. Then, the couple saw the gunman jump over a fence into the next door neighbor’s property.

“He got in through the home’s back door,” the woman said. “He looked like he wanted to hide in there.”

Shortly after, she spotted a teenage girl from next door on Olivero Road. From the little English she could understand, the woman said she heard the girl asking a man walking his dog for help. The woman called the girl over to her house.

“I told the girl to stay here, not to go back in her house,” the woman said.

The first patrol car arrived about 1 p.m., she said. More authorities arrived later and surrounded the home. The girl was taken away by an investigator for questioning, and the couple was told to stay inside their house.

“They kept trying to get him to come out; in English and in Spanish,” the woman said.

She said authorities remained at the scene throughout the night. About 12:30 a.m., she said she saw authorities wheel out a body inside a body bag on a gurney. About 30 minutes later, she heard a knock on her front door.

“It was the girl’s mother; she gave me back my phone, “ she said. “The mother said everyone was fine. She looked like she was in a state of shock.”

On Friday morning, nobody answered at the home where the hostage crisis occurred.

SWAT team arrives

Citlaly Santana, who lives across the street, said she was alerted to the situation when she heard law enforcement yelling for the suspect to come out with his hands up.

“All of a sudden I looked out the window and there are SWAT people coming up the front porch, they tried to open the door but it was locked,” Santana said. “(One of them) knocked on the window. I opened the door and he said, ‘I need to get in, I need to get on your roof.’ ”

She helped them get ladders and watched as one of them set up a tripod for his rifle on her roof.

The deputies told Santana and her mother to go inside and stay away from the windows, that there was an armed man across the street.

They waited inside for several hours.

“Then we heard four or five gunshots,” Santana said. “We went into our little laundry room — my mom, me and our three dogs.”

She said they waited there until they heard the deputies on the roof come down.

She saw the boy’s mother Friday morning when she came by the house to survey the damage.

A side window was broken and there were bullet holes and evidence markers around the front window that neighbor Francisco Salgado said he saw the boy escape from. What appeared to be blood was smeared on the window frame.

Teenage boy escapes

Salgado was playing cards and dominoes Thursday afternoon, when he heard a lot of commotion coming from Olivero Street. He walked over, sat on a stool and watched the hostage crisis unfold across the street.

“They kept telling him to come out, that they wouldn’t harm him. He wouldn’t respond at all,” Salgado said in Spanish. “Later, I saw the teenage boy somersault out of an opened window in the front of the house. He fell to the ground, and the police jumped on top to cover him.”

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Francisco Salgado, neighbor, saw the S.W.A.T. operation unfold from across the street in his brother’s front yard. Mackenzie Shuman mshuman@modbee.com

Salgado said he watched officers walk the boy out of the area, the boy’s arms draped over their shoulders as he was ushered to safety.

He said he was happy to see the boy uninjured.

“I was worried about that,” Salgado said. “He looked fine.”

Astorga had an “extensive” criminal history, the sheriff’s department said. He was currently wanted on a no-bail felony warrant for auto theft, possession of a stolen vehicle and resisting arrest.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call Detective Cory Brown at 209-567-4485.

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