A 22-year-old Dos Palos man was shot and killed early Friday and police are searching for his roommate.
The victim was identified by the Merced County Coroner’s Office as Humbert Cisneros.
Dos Palos Police are looking for 29-year-old Omar Villifana, who was last seen wearing a red hooded sweatshirt, gray sweat pants and cowboy boots. He is described by police as a Hispanic male, about 6-feet tall, weighing about 190 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.
“We believe the suspect is armed,” Chief Barry Mann told the Sun-Star. Investigators do not believe the homicide is gang related.
Police were called around 6:30 a.m. to a home in the 1900 block of South McDonald Avenue and found Cisneros inside the home suffering from at least one gunshot wound to the “upper torso,” Mann said. He was shot with a small caliber black pistol.
He said it’s unclear exactly what sparked the violence, but said it appears to have started as argument between roommates.
“The confrontation between cohabitants spun out of control and led to the shooting,” Mann said.
Police said Villifana and Cisneros were living with several roommates and at least some of those roommates tried to intervene during the argument in an effort to prevent violence.
“They did try to deescalate the situation,” Mann said, “but, unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.”
According to a Dos Palos Police Department alert, Villifana fled the scene on foot. Police were seeking a homicide warrant for Villifana’s arrest Friday afternoon.
“We do have a message we’d like Omar to hear and that’s that we’re willing to accept his peaceful surrender and we’re hoping he’ll reach out to us,” Mann told the Sun-Star. “We will meet him wherever he is comfortable. We’re willing to meet him at a location of his choosing.”
The shooting led the Dos Palos Oro Loma Joint Unified School District to place all schools in Dos Palos on modified lock down, Superintendent William Spalding said.
“The shooting occurred just a few blocks from (Marks Elementary School) just before school started,” Spalding said, adding that many students were on buses at the time.
Students and teachers gathered in the school cafeterias as district officials secured school perimeters before heading back to classrooms.
“We weren’t ordered into a lockdown (by police), but out of precaution,” Spalding said.
The death marks the first homicide of the year in Merced County, Undersheriff Jason Goins confirmed.
Merced County reported a total of nine homicides in 2016, the first time since 2001 that homicides failed to reach double digits in the county. Merced County reported record-level homicides from 2013 to 2015, with three straight years of 30 or more homicides in the county.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Dos Palos Police Department at 209-392-2174.