Gang gunfire in Merced County leaves 2 dead, 3 wounded

WINTON - A crimson spatter of dried blood on concrete and a bullet-riddled Ford Probe mark the spot where two men were fatally cut down in a hail of bullets Wednesday in front of a Winton residence.

In what Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin called “a nauseating display of savagery,” deputies said three others were injured in the brutal shooting. One was a 32-year-old female innocent bystander who was standing next to her 4-year-old son when the shooting erupted.

Investigators say the boy was unhurt.

The shooting was reported at 9:36 p.m. at a residence on the 7000 block of Peridot Avenue in Winton.

Sheriff Mark Pazin identified the victims as 21-year-old Andres Rodriguez and 18-year-old Abraham Valenzuela, both of Winton. Pazin said the men were outside the residence when they were approached by three to four suspects.

The suspects fired about 40 rounds at the men, littering the street with spent shells. Rodriguez, who was wheelchair-bound, died at the scene in the driveway of the home. Valenzuela was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

Valenzuela’s 39-year-old father was shot in his left ankle and right thigh, while a 23-year-old man at the scene was shot in the elbow. Both of those men, and the 32-year-old woman who was shot, are expected to recover from their wounds, according to Tom MacKenzie, sheriff’s spokesman.

The crime is considered gang-related, Pazin said, adding that the 23-year-old man who was injured is a validated gang member. A verbal altercation earlier in the week is believed to have led to the shooting, Pazin said.

Pazin said the crime is another example of how the words “gang lifestyle” is “the greatest oxymoron” he’s ever heard of. “It’s criminal in nature and is not a lifestyle,” Pazin said.

Investigators speculate the suspects parked their car about a block away from the house, walked to the house, and fired from about 15 to 20 yards away. Detectives haven’t released a description of the suspects or the car.

Some residents in the area reported hearing the shots, thinking that someone was igniting firecrackers.

Maria Coon, a resident who lives in the area, said she bought a house with her husband in the neighborhood only a month ago. Coon said she was shocked by the double homicide, saying that she couldn’t believe that it happened so close to home.

Coon said she didn’t see any suspicious activity at the house where the shooting happened. She and other residents said the violence frightens them. “We’ve never lived anywhere where these kinds of things happen,” Coon said. “I thought this was a nice place, but I don’t know anymore.”

Six homicides have been reported in Merced County this year.

Sheriff’s investigators are asking anyone with information about the shooting to call Detective Corey Gibson at (209) 385-7472, extn. 4994. You can remain anonymous.

Related stories from Merced Sun-Star