Struggle over hostage led to fatal shooting of suspect, sheriff’s department says

View scene of Modesto hostage incident

Day after scene in south Modesto where law enforcement killed a man who took a boy hostage for several hours at a residence on the 200 block of Olivero road Thursday.
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Day after scene in south Modesto where law enforcement killed a man who took a boy hostage for several hours at a residence on the 200 block of Olivero road Thursday.

Stanislaus County sheriff’s officials on Thursday afternoon revealed new details and images of an incident last week in south Modesto, in which an armed man took a boy hostage for hours before a deputy shot the gunman and the victim was rescued.

The incident occurred June 6 at the home in the 200 block of Olivero Road, just east of Crows Landing Road. About 1:30 p.m., Jose Jesus Astorga Jr. entered the house, where three children were, the Sheriff’s Department reported. Two girls escaped, but Astorga stopped the boy from leaving the house, officials said.

The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department SWAT team converges on a home in the 200 block of Olivero Road in Modesto, California, during a hostage situation that led to the fatal shooting of suspect Jose Astorga Jr., 37, of Modesto. Deputy Fernando Gomez, a three-year member of the department, shot Astorga, which led to the rescue of the victim. Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department

Deputy Fernando Gomez — a member of the SWAT team — fired his gun from an elevated turret on an armored rescue vehicle, when Astorga pulled the 14-year-old boy to stop him from escaping, according to sheriff’s officials. Other members of the SWAT team pulled the boy out through the window to safety.

“(Deputies) had determined the suspect could not be allowed to pull the victim back into the home where he would be in a position of much more danger,” a news release issued Thursday afternoon said.

Gomez has been with the Sheriff’s Department for three years, and a member of the SWAT Team for seven months.

The shot fatally wounded Astorga, 37, of Modesto, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Officials said Astorga was found inside the home, along with a loaded gun.

Authorities have said the boy didn’t suffer any major injuries.

The Sheriff’s Department received a 911 call about 1:40 p.m. reporting that a man armed with a shotgun had broken into the home. Deputies arrived and found one of the children outside the home, asking a neighbor to call 911. The other child escaped the home as deputies arrived.

They spotted the teenage boy approaching the front door from inside the house. Sheriff’s officials said Astorga shut the door, stopping the boy from leaving the house

More sheriff’s officers arrived and surrounded the house, along with a hastily created rescue team. They tried to speak with the victim and suspect inside of the house. They were unsuccessful.

Neighbors told The Bee that sheriff’s officers — using a public address system — repeatedly tried to convince the gunman to come out and surrender peacefully.

In the meantime, investigators questioned the two victims who had escaped. They gave detailed information, including that the suspect had a shotgun and was “acting in a paranoid manner,” according to the news release.

Sheriff’s officials then decided to call for the department’s SWAT team and hostage negotiating team The teams both have extensive training to resolve hostage situations. The sheriff’s armored rescue vehicle was driven to the home and parked in its driveway.

Sheriff’s officials said SWAT team members put themselves in an exposed, dangerous position as they approached an open window to place a wired telephone device in the house in an attempt to speak to the suspect and confirm the boy’s condition.

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

The negotiating team used the phone for a while, but the suspect did not respond. Three hours after the first deputy arrived at the home, the SWAT team made contact with the victim and suspect at a window. Sheriff’s officials said Astorga covered his head and the boy’s head with an orange hooded jacket to try to conceal them from the SWAT team.

When the boy was at the window, the victim tried to pull away from the suspect by pushing himself out the window, the release said. Astorga then grabbed boy’s shoulders, leaned back into the house, and tried to pull the victim back into the home, officials said. The SWAT team members then reached for the boy to rescue him and Gomez fired his gun.

Once Gomez shot Astorga, the other team members pulled the boy from the suspect’s grasp and out the window. The boy was taken to medics waiting at the scene.

The SWAT team then used a plan it had already designed to enter the house. The team went into the house and found Astorga in the same room where the boy got out through the window.

Sheriff’s officials ask anyone with information about this incident to call Detective Cory Brown at 209-567-4485.

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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.