A man wanted for murder in the slaying of a Firebaugh woman during a gunfight between rival gangs remains on the run, and investigators are asking for help from the public to track him down.
Jose Garcia Diaz Jr. is charged with murder in connection with the July 4 death of Jadira Bridget Torres Fuentes. The 21-year-old woman was the driver of a Kia sedan during a car-to-car shootout with rival gang members in a rural area on the west side of Merced County.
Torres Fuentes was found in the Kia shortly after the shooting stopped in the area of Highway 33 and Cypress Avenue in Dos Palos. She died later at a Modesto hospital.
Investigators believe the violence was sparked when the rivals inadvertently crossed paths.
Garcia Diaz, 19, of Dos Palos was in the vehicle that opened fire on Torres Fuentes and her boyfriend, 19-year-old Juan Antonio Gonzalez, authorities said.
Enrique Najera, 22, was with Garcia Diaz during the violence. Najera was shot in the leg and later arrested. He also has been charged with murder. He has pleaded not guilty and is due back in court July 22, according to Merced Superior Court records.
Najera was in custody without bail at the Merced County jail.
Merced County sheriff’s detectives on Friday urged anyone with information about Garcia Diaz’s whereabouts to come forward and cautioned against helping him hide.
“We have information leading us to believe that someone or some people may be helping him evade us, and we would urge them against that,” Detective Sgt. Chuck Hale said. “It’s against the law and they could face charges themselves.”
Hale declined to elaborate further on the case, saying releasing more information could compromise the investigation.
“We’re hoping for any information from the public that can lead us to him,” Hale said, noting that tips to law enforcement can be made anonymously and confidentially.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Merced County sheriff’s detective unit at 209-385-7472.
Rob Parsons: 209-385-2482