Victim's death makes Dos Palos shooting a homicide case

Two in custody face more serious charge

vpatton@mercedsunstar.comJuly 3, 2013 

— The case of 20-year-old man injured in last month's Dos Palos shooting is now a homicide investigation.

Francisco Almaraz died Tuesday at an area hospital from gunshot wounds he suffered, according to Dos Palos Police Chief Barry Mann.

Almaraz was hurt in a shootout between two drivers around 3:25 p.m. June 18 in the area of Valeria Street and Highway 33.

"We believe Francisco was just a passenger (in one of the vehicles), and we have no information he fired a gun," Mann said.

Authorities say the two suspects in the shooting, Ricardo Salas Gonzalez, 20, of Dos Palos, and a 15-year-old boy, could face homicide charges. Mann said police believe Gonzalez was the shooter, and the juvenile was an accomplice.

Police believe the motive for the shooting is gang related. Mann said Almaraz did have previous gang ties, but before his death he'd been "making a change" and trying to move away from the gang lifestyle.

Mann said the victim — the father of a toddler — had apparently been trying to be more "family oriented."

The driver of the car Almaraz was traveling in was also injured during the shooting, but has since recovered.

The two suspects in Almaraz's death were arrested June 19 after Dos Palos police served a search warrant at a Globe Avenue residence.

Another shooting in the Dos Palos area was reported on June 23. In that case, police say John Carlos Cordero-Juarez, 15, was shot and killed by a rival gang member at a South Dos Palos park on Reynolds Avenue.

The suspect in that case, 16-year-old Ryan Suarez, was later arrested by Merced County sheriff's detectives.

Mann said the June 18 shooting is under investigation by police. Detectives are asking anyone with information to call (209) 392-2176 or email police@dospalospd.org. Tips are kept confidential and you can remain anonymous.

City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsunstar.com.

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