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Mistaken gesture may have provoked assault

WINTON -- A good Samaritan's kindness may have been misinterpreted as a gang sign, leading to the beating of one man and the robbery of another, according to Merced County Sheriff's Department reports.

Deputy Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman, said a 22-year-old man was beaten up and a 20-year-old man was robbed of an undetermined amount of cash, his wallet and cell phone in the 8:30 p.m. incident in the 6700 block of Santa Fe Drive in Winton.

MacKenzie said the victims noticed an older-model Cadillac driving without its headlights on and motioned the driver to turn on his lights. The Cadillac went around the block and three men got out.

The driver was assaulted and a heavy-set Hispanic male adult held a knife to the passenger's throat before robbing him.

The robber had three dots under his eye, a common marking for members of the Sureno criminal street gang. MacKenzie said the men in the Cadillac may have mistaken the victims' gestures for rival gang signs, prompting the robbery.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2485 or