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Shooting marks county's 12th homicide

WINTON — One man is dead and another severely injured following a shooting that occurred around 11:30 p.m. Friday at a residence on the 6800 block of Walnut Avenue.

Investigators with the Merced County Sheriff’s Department said the two men were both transported to a Modesto area hospital. Sergio Coria Chavez, 19, of Winton, died around 4 a.m. from his wounds, according to Sheriff Mark Pazin. The second victim, 18 year-old Alejandro Ruiz Lopez, is currently in critical condition.

The two men were standing outside of the house during a small party when they were shot by two or more suspects, Pazin said. Investigators are unsure if the crime is gang related, although Pazin said some witnesses have not been cooperating with investigators. “I don’t think these were arbitrary acts,” Pazin said. “There was a motive behind it and we will certainly get to the bottom of it.”

Even the victim himself, who was talkative prior to his death, refused to cooperate with investigators, according the Det. Paul Barile, sheriff’s spokesperson. Detectives from the department’s Major Crimes Unit spent Saturday morning knocking on doors and interviewing witnesses with the help of a Spanish translator.

Investigators said Lopez and Chavez were shot with a shotgun and possibly a handgun. Bullet holes littered the front door of the home where the shooting occurred. The rear window of a pick-up truck, which was nearby where the two men were shot, was also shattered from the hail of bullets.Pazin said Chavez did not have a criminal record, while Lopez had brief run-ins with law enforcement. The death of Chavez marks the 12th homicide in Merced County this year.Sheriff’s investigators are asking anyone with any information to call (209)385-7445.

Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or