In what police are calling a brazen act of violence, a Modesto man was critically injured Monday morning in a drive-by shooting as he walked with his girlfriend and pushed their baby son in a stroller in the La Loma neighborhood.
The shooting occurred about 11:15 a.m. at Santa Rosa and La Loma avenues. At least three shots were fired from a silver Honda sedan that approached the couple and the baby. The father suffered three gunshot wounds to the upper body, police said.
A bullet pierced the stroller, but the baby and his mother were not injured. The baby is less than a year old, police said.
The shooting victim, in his 30s, was taken to a Modesto hospital and underwent surgery Monday afternoon. He was listed in critical condition Monday night. Authorities did not release his name or the hospital's to ensure his protection.
Between 5 and 5:30 p.m. Monday, the car that police said they believe was associated with the shooting was stopped at 10th and I streets in downtown Modesto. Police detained and spoke with people who were in the car but said they didn't believe the person responsible was among them. No arrests were made.
Investigators said they were looking for a white male in his 20s.
"It is an extremely brazen act of violence," said police Sgt. Brian Findlen. "We are fortunate that there is not a baby that has significant injuries as a result."
The man, woman and child were strolling along tree-lined La Loma Avenue when the shots rang out. They were headed east when approached by the Honda four-door headed west, toward downtown.
Multiple gunshots were fired from the vehicle. The Honda then turned onto Santa Rosa Avenue and last was seen going south.
After the father was shot, he ran for about half a block in an apparent attempt to get away from the shooter. He fell and lay bleeding on a lawn near La Loma and Las Palmas Avenue.
Sandy Suzuki, who heard the shots and ran out in front of her home, said a public transit vehicle pulled over and the driver took the baby, stroller and mother inside for protection in case the shooter returned.
The woman and child remained in the bus until officers arrived.
"She was very shaken up," Suzuki said of the mother.
Suzuki said she was weeding in her back yard when she heard three pops that sounded like firecrackers. Her 22-year-old son was mowing the front lawn and was wearing headphones, so he didn't hear the shooting.
Emergency units responded and authorities blocked La Loma Avenue as they secured the scene and paramedics tried to stabilize the victim before taking him to the hospital.
Findlen said police do not believe the shooting was a random act. The victim and the attacker had at least one previous encounter, Findlen said.
Shortly after the drive-by, police released a description of a Latino male with a braided ponytail and tattoos, but on further investigation, the person described was not related to the incident.
"We are following up on leads," Findlen said. "We won't be releasing any further information about the suspect today."
La Loma neighborhood residents said they were afraid the incident was gang- related.
"This is a very nice neighborhood, which is one of the reasons we moved over here," Suzuki said. "It is normally very quiet."
Modesto police are asking the public for assistance with the investigation. Anyone with information about the suspect may call the Police Department at 572-9500. Tipsters can remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 521-4636 or can send a text message to 274637. Type "TIP704" along with the message.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2321.