Two arrested in Livingston homicide

05/03/2013 9:07 AM

05/03/2013 2:04 PM

LIVINGSTON — Two homicide suspects were arrested here during search-warrant operation early Friday.

Livingston police and the Merced County Sheriff's SWAT Team made the arrests after a search of several locations from 5:30 to 8 a.m. The sheriff's helicopter circled overhead as deputies riding on the sides of armored vehicles joined Livingston police in the sweep.

Abel Renteria, 20, and Jose Luis Santana, 18, both documented gang members, were arrested during the operation, said Livingston Police Chief Ruben Chavez.

Authorities said they are still searching for a third suspect. He was identified as 23-year-old Gelasio Gonsales Alvarado, who officials think fled to Southern California. He's described as 5-foot-10, weighing about 180 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.

Chavez said Renteria was wanted for allegedly firing the gun that killed a 25-year-old man last month.

Aside from arresting the two homicide suspects Friday, others were taken in for questioning to determine if they were harboring criminals or if they had any involvement with the crime, Chavez said.

The vehicle believed to be used in the homicide was also seized.

While one of the search warrants was being served, officers also found evidence connecting Santana to a series of vehicle burglaries last month, Chavez added.

Nobody was injured during the operation, Chavez said. Livingston Middle School was put on lockdown for about an hour because one of the arrests took place nearby.

Friday's arrests stemmed from the April 25 slaying of Jose Sandoval, 25, in the 1300 block of E Street. Police said a car occupied by three males and a female approached the victim and his 18-year-old brother.

When the car stopped, the occupants got out and assaulted the victims, police said. As the fight continued, one of the people from the car opened fire on the brothers.

About seven rounds were fired by the gunman, police said. Sandoval died from his wounds.

The teenager, who suffered two bullet wounds to the abdomen, is expected to recover. Before the homicide, police said a fight was reported around 6 p.m. in the 700 block of First Street.

Police believe Sandoval was involved in the fight, and that incident may have led to the shooting.

The Livingston chief said a lot of work went into identifying the suspects, gathering evidence, getting search and arrest warrants, and coordinating Friday's sweep.

"We're committed to keeping our community safe, and those folks who commit those crimes — we're eventually going to take them into custody, we're eventually going to put them behind bars, and we're going to work with the District Attorney's office to pursue criminal charges — in this case homicide charges," Chavez said, adding that he was pleased with the outcome of Friday effort.

"These types of events and actions taken by the SWAT Team are very tactical and very calculated to ensure the safety not only of the community, but also of the officers initiating the actions," Chavez said. "They do it methodically, and I thought everything went well."

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsunstar.com.

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