A rock throwing incident and gang-related squabble that led to murder. That's what Merced County Sheriff's investigators believe may have motivated the killings of two males near Dos Palos last week. The department announced four arrests in the double homicide case on Thursday, along with details about the possible motive behind the killings.
The suspects, Jose Vidal German, 20, Bryan Bridgeford, 20, and a 17-year-old male juvenile, were taken into custody on suspicion of committing the killings, after detectives served three search warrants in the Dos Palos area early Tuesday morning, according to Deputy Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman.
MacKenzie said the fourth suspect, a 16-year-old male, was arrested Thursday in connection with the case at a residence in the 900 block of Golden Gate Avenue in Dos Palos. MacKenzie said it's unknown whether the 16-year-old boy will face homicide charges. He was booked on suspicion of violating his probation.
The victims, 21-year-old Juan Avalos of Dos Palos and 16-year-old Lionel Medina, were killed around 1 a.m. on Jan. 5, inside a detached garage in the 19000 block of Highway 33, at the residence where Medina lived. The victims were pronounced dead at the scene by medical personnel.
Sheriff Mark Pazin said detectives believe the suspects engaged in a gang-related argument with the victims in the days before the killings. That argument included a rock throwing incident between both sides, which may have precipitated the murders, Pazin said. "The gang lifestyle is not a lifestyle. It becomes a death sentence," Pazin said. "And that's what happened here, on Highway 33. It started off with people claiming different colors and such, escalated into some type of rock throwing incident, and ends up with two people being killed."
Detectives believe the suspects took the victims, who were sitting inside the garage, by surprise, killing them. Pazin said there could be more arrests in the case, within the upcoming days.
The warrants were executed with the SWAT Team at residences in the 1900 block of Golden Gate Ave., 21000 block of Highway 33 and the 7000 block of Carmelia Ave., MacKenzie said. The three suspects have been booked on suspicion of murder, with gang enhancements.
The 17-year-old juvenile suspect was already in custody at Juvenile Hall on suspicion of violating a probation warrant and felony evading law enforcement when the search warrants were served.
MacKenzie said detectives have recovered one of the guns that was allegedly used in the killings.