Authorities are investigating a possible homicide after an unidentified man was found dead by the side of a road south of Hilmar with an apparent gunshot wound, according to the Merced County Sheriff's Office.
A passerby found and reported a dead body on the side of Williams Avenue, about 100 yards west of Lander Avenue, just before 1 p.m. Wednesday, Merced County Sheriff's Deputy Daryl Allen said.
When deputies arrived, they found the body of a man who had apparently died due to at least one gunshot wound, Allen said, adding that the sheriff's office was investigating the case as a possible homicide.
Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol Merced assisted in closing down Williams Avenue between Columbus and Lander avenues as the sheriff's office continued investigating Wednesday.
A sheriff's crime scene trailer was seen arriving at the scene at about 2 p.m.
Allen told the Sun-Star Wednesday afternoon that it was too early to comment further until the investigation has had more time to develop information.
The dead body found Wednesday marked Merced County's second violent death in a week.
A 42-year-old Merced resident, Timothy Breckenridge, was killed Friday after being shot by three Merced County law enforcement officials in a home in the 2600 block of Atwater Boulevard.
The officers were identified Monday as Sgt. Kevin Blake and Deputy Brian Carbaugh with the sheriff's office, and Alex Cruz, a Merced County Probation supervising officer. All three were placed on paid administrative as authorities conduct an investigation.
The total number of homicides in Merced County in 2018 couldn't immediately be confirmed Wednesday.
In 2017, 20 homicides were reported in Merced County, according to the Merced County Coroner's Office. That was twice the amount reported in 2016. But it was still lower than 2013, 2014 and 2015, in which 30 or more homicides were reported each year.
The nine homicides reported in 2016 was the lowest in 20 years.