Two arrests made in killing of 16-year-old Merced boy

Benito Aguirre, 16, was shot to death Feb. 15.
Benito Aguirre, 16, was shot to death Feb. 15. Photo courtesy of Lupe Herland

Police on Monday announced the arrests of two suspects in the Feb. 15 shooting death of 16-year-old Benito Aguirre, which happened in the parking lot of Tenaya Middle School.

Franco Adrian Ortiz, 20, and a 17-year-old boy were taken into custody Thursday after an investigation led by Detective Paul Johnson.

Merced police have said they believe Aguirre was killed because of “jealousy over a female.” Capt. Tom Trindad said he could not provide further details on the motive, citing the need to protect the department’s investigation.

Trindad said the younger suspect is accused of being the shooter, while Ortiz is believed to have driven the car used during the killing. Police said Johnson found information that led to identifying the occupants of the car used in the shooting.

Members of the victim’s family expressed relief Monday over news of the arrests. Lupe Herland, 36, the victim’s aunt, commended the department and Johnson for “their good job and all the time and hours” they put into the investigation.

Herland described her relationship to Aguirre as very close. Herland said she was with her nephew in the days before his death and that he never gave any indication that his life was in danger. “He was a very good kid. He loved skateboarding and being around his friends and family, and he was generally a happy, happy kid,” Herland said.

On the day of the shooting, police responded to a shots-fired call at 6:55 p.m. and found Aguirre unresponsive in the school’s parking lot, at 760 W. Eighth St.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police are asking anyone with further details about the shooting to call Sgt. Scott Skinner at (209) 385-4702 or the department’s automated tip line at (209) 385-4725. Tips are kept confidential, and you can remain anonymous.

Sun-Star City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or