MERCED -- A blood-spattered section of pavement and three votive candles mark the spot where a 22-year-old man was fatally shot about 10:30 p.m. Monday at an apartment complex.
Merced police say Joshua Polk was sitting and talking with friends in front of an apartment in the 3200 block of Meadows Avenue when a heavyset Latino man walked up behind him, yelled a gang name and started shooting.
When police arrived at the scene, Polk was still alive. He was flown to a Modesto hospital, where he died.
No suspects are in custody. Family members and friends of Polk say he wasn't a member of a gang, and many believe he was a random target.
Witnesses told the Merced Sun-Star there was a Latino man with the shooter, and the pair had walked by before the incident happened.
Moments later, they returned and bullets were fired.
Family members say Polk had moved to Merced only three weeks ago from Winton, where he was raised, to be closer to his fiancée. He was the father of a baby girl, with another child on the way, according to his family.
"He never bothered anybody. He was a loner. For someone to come and slaughter him like a dog doesn't make any sense," said Debra Martin, Polk's cousin. "These young men are our future. It just grieves my heart to find out he was killed."
Mother: Not involved in gangs
Dorothy McKinney, the victim's mother, said her son was a family-oriented young man who wasn't involved in gangs.
"He was a nice kid," said McKinney, holding back tears. "I hope they find the person that did this."
Tiffany McKinney, Polk's 23-year-old cousin, said he was nicknamed "Pork chop" because of his hearty appetite. He also was an avid basketball player.
"He was just a sweet boy," McKinney said, adding she hopes the culprits turn themselves in. "I just want peace for my family."
The description of the shooter is sketchy. Police say he was wearing a T-shirt and shorts.
The homicide is Merced's fourth this year and the 14th reported in Merced County.
The shooting happened a few blocks from where Michael Riley was killed in October 2008. The 29-year-old Navy veteran was shot to death in the 1100 block of Loughborough Drive, outside the Village Meadows Apartments. His killer has never been found, and the crime remains unsolved.
Police ask anyone with information to call Merced police Lt. Jim Gurden at 384-4186 or Detective Chris Russell at 385-4707.