One dead in officer-involved shooting near Atwater High School

Officer-involved shooting in Atwater

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One man was killed Tuesday afternoon by two Atwater Police Department officers in a shooting outside an apartment complex across the street from Atwater High School.

The officer-involved shooting was reported around 1 p.m. at the Winton Gardens apartment complex on Winton Way in Atwater.

A neighbor called police to report gunshots coming from a second-story apartment. When officers arrived, they also heard gunshots and went to the apartment.

A short time later, officers opened fire at the man just outside the second-story apartment, striking him at least twice. Details and circumstances surrounding the shooting were unclear late Tuesday afternoon.

Investigators could not say if the man fired any gunshots at the officers, but police confirmed he did have a gun and that weapon has been taken as evidence in the case.

Police Chief Samuel Joseph did not release the man's identity. He did, however, say, “There were no major injuries to the officers." One officer is being examined for possible damage to his hearing.

The man was flown to a Modesto hospital, where he later died, according to Lt. Chuck Hale of the Merced County Sheriff's Office. The names of the officers also were not released.

Both veteran officers have been with the department for several years, authorities said. Atwater High School was locked down as a security precaution for a short time as a result of the incident, but Joseph said there was no danger to the students.

Baltazar Barocio was working across the street at the car lot he owns, Atwater Auto World. He said he saw officers speaking with a man and woman. He said the man and woman “got pretty loud” while speaking with the officers and then the officers “started grabbing their gear, their shotguns and shields.”

He said officers then appeared to be “mapping out the area” or “staking out” the area before at least one officer went to an apartment on the second-story. He said a short time passed and then he heard multiple shots fired.

Other neighbors in the area reported hearing at least one gunshot. The sheriff’s office is leading the investigation into both the officer-involved shooting and the criminal investigation of the prior incident, Sheriff Vern Warnke said.

The Atwater Police Department will conduct an internal review of the incident. Police said the Winton Garden apartments at one time were known for heavy police activity, but had been quiet in recent years. “We’ve had shooting investigation there before, but not for quite a while now,” Joseph said.