A man's body was discovered in Hatfield Park near Hilmar on Thursday night, Merced County Sheriff's deputy Ed Katen reported.
The body has not been identified, and the coroner was expected to conduct an autopsy Friday. Katen said the body had a gunshot wound to the chest.
The Merced County Sheriff's Department was notified about 7 p.m. Thursday, Katen said, after children fishing in the park discovered the body in the Merced River.
Deputies found blood on the bridge and guardrails over the river, Katen said.
"The information is sketchy," Katen said.
The body appears to be of a white male in his 30s, Katen said, and was heavily tattooed.
Deputies are using the tattoos to attempt to identify the man. Katen said some of the tattoos hint that the man may have been from Modesto, been gang-affiliated and served time in jail.
Deputies said they haven't determined whether the man was killed in the park. Katen said the body could have been in the river as long as 24 hours.
There have been 13 homicides in Merced County this year.
Reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.