What was once a proud symbol of hard work and fun times now sits as a harsh reminder of a senseless killing.
Jorge Chavez, a 28-year-old mechanic at Sears Auto Center, was passionate about cars, especially his 1983 Buick Regal low-rider, but that passion was cut short when he was shot and killed in it outside of his parents' house just after 9 p.m. June 13 in the 200 block of West 12th Street.
He had gotten off work a while earlier and was getting ready to park in front of the house when someone fired six rounds at his car, one striking him in the head and killing him, said Victor Figueroa, the victim's brother. The bullets were most likely from a large-caliber handgun, possibly a .357 or .38.
Figueroa was inside his mother's house with Chavez's 7-year-old daughter when he heard the shots ring out, he said. He ran outside and saw his brother's low-rider smash into a parked car, pushing that car into another.
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His brother's foot was stuck on the gas pedal and the tires were spinning, Figueroa recalled. He reached into the car and turned of the ignition.
Chavez was leaned over in his seat, and Figueroa thought he had been hurt in the wreck, he said. Police later informed him that his brother had been fatally shot in the head.
No other injuries were reported, but a nearby apartment building was struck by gunfire, police said.
Detectives were able to extract one bullet out of the apartment wall, police said. It'll be kept as evidence. Another bullet was later taken from the car.
Chavez, who was laid to rest June 23, didn't have any enemies and was always helping people out with mechanical work, said Alfredo Figueroa, Chavez's brother.
Another one of Chavez's five brothers, Margarito Chavez, said the amount of aid his family received was amazing following the tragedy.
"He had a lot of friends," he said. "When he passed away, there was a lot of support there for us."
Jorge Chavez was the president of the Sangre Latina Car Club, Victor Figueroa said. He had also been involved with other car clubs, which is why he was so well known.
To help pay for the funeral, Chavez's brothers and friends put on a carwash that raised about $4,700. Other car clubs also contributed money to help cover expenses.
Victor Figueroa said his family has been living in the area for more than 35 years and have never had issues with anyone.
"We all know each other around here," Victor Figueroa said. "We all keep an eye out for each other."
Jorge Chavez wasn't affiliated with any gangs, Victor Figueroa said. He left behind a 12-year-old daughter, and 7-year-old daughter, a 14-month-old son and a wife.
The death was especially hard for the 7-year-old to deal with, since she saw the aftermath of the accident, Margarito Chavez said.
"In the morning, she woke up and said 'let's go to the hospital, I want to see my dad,'" Margarito Chavez said. "Of course, we had to break it to her."
Last week, Jorge Chavez's family put his low-rider on display at a car show as a statement and an attempt to bring forward anyone with information about the homicide.
"We took it out there the way we received it from the police department, with the bullet holes in it," Alfredo Figueroa said. "We didn't even clean the interior -- we had the blood still in it."
The family of Jorge Chavez said there's been some hearsay about the shooting, but nothing reliable enough for the police department to use.
Detectives are still investigating the crime, said Sgt. Alan Ward of the Merced Police Department.
Sgt. Scott Skinner hopes someone with information about the homicide will come forward.
"We're still actively working it," Skinner said. "Somebody had to see something, and it's those people that we're looking for."
The victim's family is offering a $10,000 reward for any information that leads to the conviction of the person responsible for Jorge Chavez's death.
Jorge Chavez's family said they just want some closure.
"Hopefully, someone goes to jail for it," Victor Figueroa added.
Police are asking witnesses or anyone with information about the shooting to call Sgt. Scott Skinner at (209) 385-4725 or the department's automated tip line at (209) 385-4725. Calls are kept confidential, and you can remain anonymous.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or email@example.com.