A Planada man who was shot in 2013 died last month and the case is officially being investigated as a homicide, the Merced County Sheriff’s Department confirmed Monday.
Joel Huerta, 20, died Jan. 12 at a regional hospital, about 17 months after he was shot near his neck and was paralyzed, Sgt. Delray Shelton said.
Shelton said Huerta’s death was the result of injuries suffered in the 2013 shooting in Planada.
No arrests have been made in the case.
Huerta was shot July 11, 2013, while walking with a woman in the area of Latham Drive and Carson Street, Shelton said.
According to Merced Sun-Star archives, investigators in 2013 said a tan-colored Honda pulled up next to Huerta and the woman and someone inside the vehicle opened fire. The woman, whose identity was never released, was not injured, but Huerta was struck “in the upper torso.”
Deputies at the time said they feared Huerta had suffered a permanent injury because of the wounds to his neck area, according to previous reports.
Investigators initially believed the attack was gang-related. However, Detective Sgt. Chuck Hale said deputies no longer believe that to be the case.
“We believe that gang members may have been involved in the shooting, but the motive (for the attack) was not gang-related,” Hale said Monday. To protect the investigation, he said, he could not elaborate further.
Since the attack happened in 2013, the case is considered a homicide for that year. That brings the total number of homicides for 2013 in Merced County to 29.
In 2014, Merced County reported 32 homicides, the highest total in county history.
The county has reported three homicides in 2015, all in the city of Merced.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Merced County Sheriff’s Department’s Major Crimes Unit at (209) 385-7472. Tips are confidential and callers may remain anonymous.