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Man dead after violent weekend

Weekend gunfire resulted in one death and two people being critically injured in shootings in Winton and Planada. Two people were arrested in connection with one of the shootings and authorities need the public's help to track down those responsible in the other incident.

Merced County Sheriff's Department investigators said two men were taken to a Modesto area hospital following a Friday night shooting in Winton. Sergio Coria Chavez, 19, of Winton, died around 4 a.m. Saturday from his wounds, according to Sheriff Mark Pazin.

The second victim, 18 year-old Alejandro Ruiz Lopez, is currently in critical condition in a Modesto hospital.

In the second, unrelated shooting late Saturday, Joe Medeiros, 40, of Planada, was shot three times in the upper body. He also was airlifted to a Modesto trauma center and is listed in critical condition.

"It's a very scary sign of the times that conflict resolution comes at the end of a gun barrel," Pazin said.

Sgt. Jason Goins, supervisor of the sheriff's department Major Crimes Unit, said Sunday afternoon Chavez' death is the eighth homicide his office has investigated this year, two more than all of last year. Twelve murders have taken place so far this year in Merced County.

Goins said detectives are following up on leads as they come in on the two or more suspects believed involved in the 11:30 p.m. shooting Friday at a residence in the 6800 block of Walnut Avenue in Winton. Descriptions of those involved are sketchy and cooperation from witnesses has been limited.

In the 11:30 p.m. shooting Saturday in the 200 block of Saragosa Avenue in Planada, Medeiros was shot three times in the upper body near his residence. Goins said Medeiros was not a criminal street gang member but was known to associate with gang members.

Six shots were fired from a .38-caliber revolver at Medeiros by two Latino males, Deputy Paul Barile, sheriff's spokesman, said.

Goins said detectives believe they know the motive for Medeiros' shooting but are not releasing it at this time.

A joint investigation conducted by the sheriff's department Major Crime Unit and the newly formed Merced County Multi-Agency Gang Task Force identified and arrested two Planada men in the early morning hours following Medeiros' shooting.

Arturo Pino, 20, was charged with attempted murder and criminal conspiracy. Antonio Saldana, 21, was charged with attempted murder, criminal conspiracy and being an accessory to a crime. Pino remained in Merced County Jail Sunday night in lieu of $510,000 bail and Saldana remained in custody in lieu of $550,000 bail, according to a correctional official.

Both Pino and Saldana are validated Sureno criminal street gang members, Barile said.

In the Winton shooting, Chavez and Lopez were standing outside 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 before his death, refused to cooperate with investigators, according to Barile. Detectives from the department's Major Crimes Unit spent Saturday morning knocking on doors and interviewing witnesses with the help of a Spanish language 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 volley of bullets.

Pazin said Chavez did not have a criminal record, while Lopez had brief run-ins with law enforcement. Sheriff's investigators are asking anyone with any information to call 385-7445. In the Planada shooting, Goins is asking those with information call the Major Crimes Unit at 725-3880.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at 209-385-2485 or dyawger@mercedsun-star.com. Reporter Victor A. Patton also contributed to this report.

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