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16-year-old shot, killed at party in Los Banos

LOS BANOS -- Somewhere between 300 and 500 people were attending a birthday party early Sunday morning near Los Banos when a 16-year-old boy was shot to death -- but no one is cooperating with officers, Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin said.

Peter Fregoso was shot at least twice and died at the scene of the 12:30 a.m. incident in the 100 block of Ramos Road. A 22-year-old man, not identified, was shot once in the back and was treated and released from Los Banos Memorial Hospital.

The shooting is believed to be gang-related.

"The frustration of our detectives is at an all-time high," Pazin said. "Our investigators would have had a better chance sighting a UFO as opposed to finding a cooperative witness who would come forward. There were 300 to 500 people in attendance and everybody clammed up. This is a disgusting display of how people operate."

Sgt. Jason Goins, supervisor of the Merced County Sheriff's Department Major Crimes Unit, said somebody saw something and hopefully will come forward with information that will break this case.

He said detectives were on the scene for about 12 hours processing evidence and will be following up on leads.

The teenager's death is the first so far this year in unincorporated parts of the county. There have been three murders in the city of Merced, two in Dos Palos and two in Atwater so far this year, Goins said.

Fregoso was shot at point-blank range in the face.

The other victim had turned and was running away when he was shot. His injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.

Deputy Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's department spokesman, said it is not known whether or not the suspect or victim were involved in a gang, but witnesses say members from gangs claiming "Red" and "Blue" were present at the party.

"So far we have no indication why the altercation took place and the Merced County sheriff's detectives are still investigating the crime," MacKenzie said.

Pazin said the murder weapon was a handgun but he declined to be more specific about the weapon.

As the birthday party was progressing, rival gang members showed up, "trash-talking" ensued, following shortly by the shooting.

"It's been a rather bloody weekend," Pazin said.

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