A Planada teenager who was shot during a gunfight between gang rivals on Carson Street earlier this week has died, the Merced County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Thursday.
Andrew Guzman, 18, was pronounced dead Wednesday at a Modesto hospital, about three days after he was shot in a car during a shootout with rival gang members, Deputy Daryl Allen told the Sun-Star.
One other man also was shot around 9:15 p.m. Sunday during the violence. The second man, whose name has not been released, suffered injuries that were not believed to be life-threatening.
Allen, citing a need to protect the investigation, said detectives could not comment on any details of the case or release the names of anyone else involved.
Investigators have described the violence as a “possible drive-by shooting” between “rival gang members.” Guzman was found inside a car that had crashed into a house about 100 yards from the area where the shooting started. The second man was found in the front yard of a home on Carson Street.
No arrests have been reported.
Guzman’s death marks the third homicide in Merced County in less than a month.
Investigators have said all three cases may have possible gang ties, but none of the recent homicides are connected directly.
Investigators have released few details in any of the cases, saying they need to withhold some information from the public in order to solve the crimes. No arrests have been made in any of the investigations.
A man was shot dead July 1 in the area of Cabot Avenue and Beachwood Drive in the Franklin area of Merced. His name has not been released.
Jose Tarin, a 25-year-old Merced man, was found shot to death June 21 on the side of the road in the area of Gurr Road and Avenue One on the outskirts of Atwater.
There have been 10 homicides reported in 2017 in Merced County, already surpassing the total number of violent slayings reported countywide in 2016, which was nine. Last year was the first since 2001 when homicides failed to reach double digits in Merced County. The relative calm of 2016 followed three straight years of record-breaking violence when Merced County reported 30 or more homicides each year from 2013 to 2015.
Merced Sheriff Vern Warnke called the recent spike in violence “troubling” and said he’s worried “too many of our deputies are leaving at a faster rate than we can hire them to fill in.”
“I’m very concerned. The public knows about our shortage of deputies, and this is where we’re at right now,” Warnke said. “We’re at a point right now where we’re doing everything we can just to answer all the calls that come in. We’re not able to be proactive like we were before. It’s a shame this is where we’re at right now.”
Warnke has been asking the County Board of Supervisors to increase base pay for deputies at his office for the last three years. Supervisors have said there’s no money for it. Tensions swelled last month when County CEO Jim Brown suggested that low pay was not the main obstacle preventing the Sheriff’s Office from hiring and retaining deputies. Rather, Brown said, the upcoming generation of young people simply don’t want careers in law enforcement.
Warnke said the recent uptick in violence has affected the detectives in his office and noted another “senior detective” is preparing to leave for a job in the Bay Area.
Anyone with information regarding the recent homicide cases is asked to contact the Merced County Sheriff’s Office detectives at 209-385-7472. Tips are confidential and callers may remain anonymous.
Rob Parsons: 209-385-2482