Crime

Who killed Ethan Morse? Police don’t know yet. Atwater chief: ‘We can use everybody’s help’

Homicide of Ethan Morse enters its fourth day. Atwater chief talks about the case

Atwater Police Chief Michael Salvador talks Monday, March 18, 2019, about the state of the homicide case that took the life of 22-year-old Ethan Morse, who is the son of former Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II.
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Atwater Police Chief Michael Salvador talks Monday, March 18, 2019, about the state of the homicide case that took the life of 22-year-old Ethan Morse, who is the son of former Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II.

Investigators on Monday asked for the public’s help as detectives tried to piece together clues into the slaying of 22-year-old Ethan Morse, the son of former Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II.

Morse was shot and killed Friday morning at the corner of Fir Avenue and Winton Way in Atwater.

As the investigation entered its fourth day without an arrest, Atwater Police Chief Michael Salvador said detectives are looking for anyone with information regarding Morse’s whereabouts in the 24 hours prior to the shooting.

“We can use everybody’s help in this case. Winton Way is a very busy road. I’m sure somebody saw what happened,” Salvador said. “We’re conducting a homicide investigation and all leads will be followed up on.”

Salvador said police do not know why Morse was shot or what he was doing on that Atwater street corner at that time. Police have not ruled out any suspects or motives.

Investigators with the California Department of Justice are aiding in the investigation.

The shooter was described as a Hispanic male, wearing sunglasses, a black T-shirt and tan pants. He fled on foot east on Fir Street.

Three schools in the area were placed on lockdown while officers searched for the suspect to no avail.

The Morse family, speaking through Rex Hays, a pastor at Sacred Heart Church in Patterson, declined to comment Monday.

The younger Morse was the focus of a homicide investigation from a 2013 fatal shooting at an Atwater house party. He was declared innocent in 2014 by a Merced County judge before he sued investigators and Merced County for violating his civil rights.

A federal jury ruled in his favor on May 4, awarding $498,300 in damages from the county. The detectives involved in the case were ordered to pay $28,349 total.

Police on Monday were processing a car at the scene of Morse’s shooting, Salvador said. The black Nissan Altima had been driven up on a curb on Fir Avenue.

“All that kind of stuff takes time. We want to make sure when we catch this guy, we take care of business,” he said. “Catching a person who commits a homicide is a high priority for the police department. It doesn’t matter who the victim is or the victim’s family.”

The Atwater Police Department is investigating a shooting that occurred in the 1800 block fo Fir Avenue and Friday, March 15, 2019. According to police, one person suffered a gunshot would and was taken to Merced Medical Center.

The elder Morse was district attorney in Merced County from 2006 to 2018, following a loss in the June primary election to Kimberly Lewis.

Lewis has said she will recuse herself from prosecuting any suspect arrested related to the younger Morse’s death.

Morse’s funeral is 10:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Patrick’s Church, 671 E. Yosemite Ave., according to the funeral home. A Rosary is planned the previous night, 7 p.m. Friday at Our Lady of Mercy, 459 W. 21st St.

Anyone with information on the shooting is being asked to contact the Atwater Police Department at 209-357-6384. Tips are confidential and you can remain anonymous.

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