Central Valley

Detectives eyeing answers in fatal Hickman shooting

(BART AH YOU/bahyou@modbee.com) - Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department on Merriam Road in Hickman where earlier this morning several suspects were involved in a shooting Friday morning.
December 10, 2010
(BART AH YOU/bahyou@modbee.com) - Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department on Merriam Road in Hickman where earlier this morning several suspects were involved in a shooting Friday morning. December 10, 2010

Detectives are still piecing together details of a shooting in Hickman early Friday that left one man dead, two others wounded and many questions unanswered.

No arrests had been made as of Friday night, hours after five men pulled up in front of a house on Merriam Road and traded gunfire with a man living there with this family in an apparent botched home invasion, authorities said.

The man from the home apparently shot two of the suspects — one fatally. All the suspects fled. Three of them, including the man who died, were found in the suspected getaway car about six miles north of the intersection of Milnes Road and the Oakdale-Waterford Highway.

Two others were found 2½ hours later hiding in a ditch a short distance from the Nissan.

The suspects are believed to be affiliated with the Sureño street gang, according to deputy Luke Schwartz of the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department.

Their names, ages and hometowns were not released. Four of the suspects were classified as “persons of interest” and were being interviewed by detectives Friday afternoon.

It is not yet known who will be charged, who will be arrested, or what types of charges they could possibly face, Schwartz said.

One of the suspects was taken to a Modesto hospital and was listed in stable condition after receiving multiple gunshot wounds. The man who emerged from the home was grazed by a bullet and suffered a superficial wound. He did not need treatment at a hospital.

There were initial reports that the incident was a possible home invasion. Investigators believe robbery was the motive, but nothing appears to have been stolen, and it wasn’t known what the men were after, Schwartz said.

However, a person related to the family believes the shootout was a result of retaliation tied to an attempted robbery at the home around Thanksgiving.

Schwartz said detectives had not yet investigated the possible link involving any prior instances at that residence and what happened there during Friday’s incident, which began around 7:15 a.m.

According to the family member, the wife had just returned to the property after watching her 8-year-old son and 5-year-old niece get on the bus to go to school.

As she walked toward the house, the suspects pulled up in a green four-door Nissan the wife said she saw driving slowly past the house on Thursday afternoon, according to the family member.

Five men got out of the car and asked to speak to the husband, the family member said. The wife began to scream for her husband, and he came out of the house.

The family member said at least one of the suspects opened fire in the direction of the home, and the man fired back in their direction, hitting two of the suspects.

The suspects then fled, according to deputy Andrew Winter.

Minutes later, bystander Shaun Barlow, who was driving north on the Oakdale-Waterford Highway near Milnes Road, saw the green Nissan in front of him spewing smoke.

The driver of that car pulled over and flagged down Barlow. He stopped and saw that two passengers in the car were shot — one in the groin and one in the chest.

The man shot in the chest died at the scene despite lifesaving efforts by emergency crews, Schwartz said.Barlow called 911, and deputies and emergency crews, unaware of the Hickman shooting, went to the scene near Milnes.

About 20 minutes later, there was a report of a possible home invasion in Hickman, Winter said. The family member, who said the couple in the Hickman home do not speak English, called authorities about the incident after receiving a call from them.

The description of the car at Milnes, along with its occupants, matched those at the Hickman shooting, Winter said. In addition, a records check of the Nissan’s license plate revealed it was reportedly used in another felony case in the Bay Area.

Investigators converged at the Hickman home, which was riddled with bullet holes.

With three suspects spoken for — the fatal victim, the wounded man, who was taken to Doctors Medical Center, and the driver, who was taken into custody — two suspects remained at large.

Authorities searched on foot and from the air before a police dog discovered the suspects at about 10 a.m. hiding in a drainage ditch a short distance from where the Nissan was parked, Winter said.

The family member said the man at the home recognized one of the suspects from an attempted robbery there last month. The family member said the man overpowered one of the suspects during that incident.

The family member said a police report on the incident was filed, but that could not be immediately confirmed.

A nearby neighbor, who requested anonymity, described the man and woman as quiet, “good people.” He said the wife would often baby-sit his children.

Numerous agencies worked the case, including the California Highway Patrol, the sheriff’s gang, aero-squadron and canine units;, Riverbank, Waterford, Patterson and Hughson police.

Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to call Det. Darwin Hatfield at 209-525-7100. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call Stanislaus County Area Crime Stoppers at 1-866-602-7463 or 209-521-4636.

Reporter Erin Tracy can be reached at etracy@modbee.com or 578-2366.

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