Afternoon Newsletter

March 31, 2013

UPDATED: Three people dead in Atwater gang shooting

Three people are dead after a gang-related shooting Saturday night in the 9200 block of Westside Boulevard in the Atwater area, the Merced County Sheriff's Department reported.

The victims are described as two men, ages 18 and 19 years old, and a 16-year-old female, according to Sheriff Mark Pazin.

The female victim died on Sunday after being taken to a Modesto hospital for surgery.

Two other males were wounded during the incident, a 16 and 21-year-old, and were taken to the hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening.

The shooting happened around 11 p.m. Saturday, after a group of people approached a rival gang at a party near the residence. Pazin said the group was having an Easter-related gathering, and the rivals were able to sneak up on them.

Multiple shots rang out after the confrontation, he said, followed by a series of 911 calls.

Merced and Atwater police assisted Saturday night, as well as the fire department. Pazin said many of those injured had already been taken to hospitals when sheriff's deputies arrived.

Authorities said the motive behind Saturday's shooting was gang-related. "Was it gangs involved? Yes, it was," Pazin said during a news conference Sunday. "I'm not going to sugar coat it. The absolute immaturity and insensitivity over a couple of gang colors is just breathtaking."

Atwater police Lt. Sam Joseph said the tragedy is an example of gangs recruiting younger members, and doing whatever it takes to fulfill their purpose. "Gang members don’t have any sensitivity when it comes to holidays," he said. "Unfortunately, the victims of gang violence and the suspects involved are getting younger and younger as the years go on."

Pazin said the sheriff's department won't release the victims' names out of respect for the families on Easter Sunday, however, the families have been notified. "We want to give them some time to catch up and grope for answers in this nonsensical system that we call gang violence," he said.

Many of the witnesses have been uncooperative, but the department’s major crime unit is working on piecing together what happened during the incident. There are no suspects in custody at this time, Pazin said.

Eight homicides have been reported in Merced County this year.

-- Ramona Giwargis

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