Attempted murder charges were filed Wednesday against a Merced pastor who allegedly shot three people last week, including two family members, in a case investigators have described as “bizarre,” “tragic” and “convoluted.”
Raul Diaz Moreno on Monday was charged with three counts of attempted murder with potential sentencing enhancements for causing “great bodily injury” with a firearm. If convicted, the 52-year-old pastor of Victory Outreach church faces 85 years to life in prison, the Merced County District Attorney’s Office reported.
The investigation into Diaz Moreno is far from over and additional felony charges could be in the works, authorities said. Merced police and prosecutors are investigating whether he may have fired shots at police on Friday during the more than two-hour standoff at a home in the 4600 block of Beckman Way.
Diaz Moreno is accused of shooting three people, two females, ages 17 and 19, and a 21-year-old man, outside the home.
A police detective’s unmarked patrol car was struck at least twice during the standoff, police Capt. Bimley West confirmed.
“The investigation is ongoing and will determine whether he intentionally fired at the officers,” West said. The police captain said authorities did not initially release information about police officers taking fire to protect the investigation.
“It’s a complex, convoluted case and there are still details that the officers and detectives are investigating,” West told the Sun-Star.
Diaz Moreno has not been charged with shooting at police, but Rob Carroll, Merced County chief deputy district attorney, confirmed prosecutors and police are looking into those allegations and have not ruled out the possibility of filing additional charges.
Police also are investigating allegations that Diaz Moreno may have “inappropriately touched” at least one of the female victims. Those allegations, which have not led to formal charges against Diaz Moreno, may have played a role in the events leading up to the violent eruption of gunfire on Friday.
Prosecutors said the 17-year-old girl had packed a bag and was leaving with her 19-year-old sister and the older sister’s boyfriend. Authorities said the three victims were outside the home when Diaz Moreno opened fire, striking the 17-year-old in the leg, the 21-year-old male in the upper torso and the 19-year-old woman in the face.
All three victims are expected to recover. Authorities have not commented on the number of shots fired. A handgun, believed to be the weapon used in the attack, was seized by Merced police, officials said.
Police also have described the relationship between Diaz Moreno and the two females as “convoluted” and “confusing.” Police said the females were the adopted daughters of Diaz Moreno’s sister-in-law, but he’d taken them into his home, essentially as his own adopted daughters.
Diaz Moreno briefly appeared Wednesday in Merced Superior Court via video monitor but did not enter a plea. His arraignment was rescheduled for 8:30 a.m. Friday before Judge Ronald W. Hansen. An attorney from the county Public Defender’s Office was appointed to represent the pastor, according to court records.
He remained in custody Wednesday with bail set at $1.5 million.
Rob Parsons: 209-385-2482