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Modesto man chases would-be car thieves, shoots one

A 22-year-old Modesto man is being investigated after he allegedly shot at several teenagers who were trying to break into his car in front of his house early today. One of the would-be-thieves is in a local hospital, expected to recover, police say.

The incident began about 4:30 am when residents in the 1800 block of Jardine Way reported shots fired in the street and people running, a Modesto Police news release said.

According to the news release, this is what happened once officers arrived:

They found a trail of blood and followed it around the block to where 18-year-old Felix Rengel of Modesto was lying on the ground. Rengel had been shot several times.

While at the scene, another teen approached and told officers he had been with Rengel. He told officers what had occurred and showed them the house where Rengel was shot. Officers found bullet casings near the porch. Officers used a bullhorn and made phone calls in an attempt to see if anyone was inside the house, but got with no response. The SWAT team was called and set up around the house. About 8:45 am, 55-year-old Jose Garcia Sr. came out and told officers his son was asleep inside. A few minutes later, Garcia Jr. surrendered.

Officers found bullet holes in three houses directly across the street from Garcia’s home. None of the bullets appears to have entered a home. Other witnesses reported Garcia chased a would-be thief down the street while shooting at him.

A third subject was with Rengel during the shooting, and officers were able to contact him later at the police station. Garcia is being investigated for possible charges of assault with a deadly weapon. Other charges may include possession of an assault rifle; officers found an SKS assault rifle in the back yard of a house next to Garcia’s and are investigating where it came from.

"We can completely understand the frustration and anger the vehicle owner must have felt when seeing these three guys breaking into his car," said Sgt. Craig Gundlach. He said, "We encourage citizens to take an active role in their neighborhoods to prevent crime. However, protecting your car stereo is not justification for shooting someone. The best thing to do is call 9-1-1 and work with the responding officers in order to catch the crooks. In this situation, Garcia never called the police and put his entire neighborhood at risk."