Atwater police officers identified in fatal shooting near high school

Two Atwater police officer who shot and killed an armed man this week have been identified.

Sgt. William Novetzke and Officer David Walker opened fire around 1 p.m. Tuesday outside a second-story home at the Winton Garden apartments on Winton Way, across the street from Atwater High School, killing 18-year-old Ezekiel Juan Duran, according to the Atwater Police Department.

Atwater Police Chief Samuel Joseph on Thursday confirmed the names of both officers and said they remained on paid administrative leave in connection with Tuesday’s shooting, which is standard procedure in all officer-involved shootings.

Police said Duran was armed with a .44-caliber handgun and refused the officers’ orders to drop the weapon. Duran was shot at least twice. He was flown to a Modesto hospital where he died a short time later, authorities have said.

Officials have said it’s too early to comment on the number of gunshots fired or to say whether Duran may have shot at police. Investigators have said Duran was armed with the handgun and the weapon was found at the scene and seized as evidence in the case.

Joseph confirmed both officers are being evaluated for possible hearing-related injuries in connection with the gunfire. Walker has been with the Atwater Police Department for about 11 years and Novetzke has been there for about 12 years, officials said.

Police were called to the home after a neighbor reported hearing gunfire. Officers also heard gunfire once they arrived on scene and went to the apartment to investigate, authorities have said.

The Merced County Sheriff’s Office is leading the probe into the officer-involved shooting and the criminal investigation into the incident leading up to the shooting. Atwater police are conducting their own internal review as well.

Duran’s family has declined to comment.

Rob Parsons: 209-385-2482