Shooting of two in Winton drug-related, sheriff says

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comJuly 14, 2013 

— Two people were injured in a shooting this week after authorities said Friday that the victims might have been targeted because they were planning to rob a marijuana growing operation.

Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin, at a news conference, said the Thursday shooting was clearly "drug-related."

Pazin said the victims had no gang affiliations and the crime was motivated by the shooters thinking their marijuana grow was being robbed.

"It's going to get worse before it gets better," Pazin said, adding that there have been numerous shootings related to marijuana grows in Merced County.

The incident happened about 2 p.m. Thursday when the victims, a 29-year-old man and 48-year-old woman, were driving on Oakdale Road and Fisher Road.

The shooters drove up next to the victims' vehicle, and began firing shots through their windows, Pazin said.

The victims made a U-turn, but were unable to avoid more gunfire. The gunmen then got out of their vehicle and continued shooting at the victims, said deputy Delray Shelton, the Sheriff's Department spokesman.

Both victims were shot multiple times and were taken to Modesto-area hospitals. They are in stable condition, Shelton added.

"It seems to be centered around illegal marijuana grows," Pazin said. "What makes it dangerous is we have these arbitrary and callous shootings again."

Pazin said he plans to bring a proposed ordinance before the Merced County Board of Supervisors soon to try to deter attacks related to marijuana growing operations.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call the Sheriff's Department at (209) 385-7444.

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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