A 16-year-old boy was dead, a man was wounded and another teenage boy was in custody Wednesday in connection with an apparent gang-related fight that escalated to gunfire Tuesday evening on Lombardo Avenue in south Modesto, sheriff's officials said.
Neighbors said Wednesday the dead boy was hit by stray gunfire and wasn't involved in the fight or associated with gangs.
"This is a tragedy," said Antonette Valdez, 52, who has lived in the neighborhood for 26 years. "It is just disgusting."
Stanislaus County coroner officials said Eliazar Hernandez, of Modesto, was fatally wounded after he was shot in the unincorporated neighborhood east of South Ninth Street and south of the Tuolumne River.
Attempts to reach Hernandez's family were not successful Wednesday.
Someone had taken Hernandez to a Modesto hospital when authorities arrived at the crime scene Tuesday evening. He was pronounced dead at the hospital, sheriff's officials said.
Authorities found a second victim in the area of shooting. The 29-year-old man was treated at a hospital for nonlife-threatening gunshot wounds and released, said Deputy Andrew Winter, a Stanislaus County sheriff's spokesman.
Sheriff's officials did not release the injured man's name to protect his safety.
Winter said detectives were still trying to determine whether the two shooting victims were involved in the gang fight, however, it's likely that Hernandez wasn't.
On Tuesday night, deputies cordoned off a two-block area to preserve evidence at the crime scene. Authorities remained at the scene until about midnight, neighbors said.
Winter said detectives worked through the night collecting evidence and conducting interviews until they identified the suspect in the shooting.
Detectives arrested the teenage boy on suspicion of murder and assault with a deadly weapon. He was being held at the Stanislaus County Juvenile Hall.
Sheriff's officials did not release the suspect's name because he is a minor. Winter said he did not know where or when the boy was arrested.
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The boy's death was shocking to most residents. Gang-related shootings, however, are not uncommon to this neighborhood just east of a commercial strip on South Ninth Street, said Valdez, who lives on Lombardo.
Valdez and her husband watched the shooting unfold in front of them as they stood in their front yard. It was shortly before 5:40 p.m., and there was still daylight when the incident began.
The gang fight started around the corner, Valdez said, about a block away from her home. A teenage boy was running west on Lombardo, away from the fight, before he stopped in front of her home. He was wearing a white shirt and black pants.
She said everyone knows everyone in her neighborhood, so outsiders stick out and are considered suspicious. The boy Valdez saw was not from the neighborhood.
The boy was reaching underneath his waistband and talking to someone on a cell phone, Valdez said. The boy then asked Valdez and her husband if he could enter their yard to hide, but they refused.
She said the boy then continued talking into the phone in a panicked voice, saying "I don't know what to do. I'm going to have to kill somebody."
That's when the boy pulled out a handgun from underneath his waistband and began firing east down the street. Valdez said she couldn't see who or what the boy was shooting.
"He wasn't hit by any bullets," Valdez said. "He was the only one shooting."
She and her husband ducked for safety and heard several shots fired. Then they heard sirens from deputies responding to the area.
"(The boy) then just ran into our back yard and then he jumped out over the back-yard fence," Valdez said. "He dropped the gun, and (authorities) found it in the alley."
Winter said he could not verify the detailed accounts from neighbors, because detectives were not releasing specifics about how the shooting occurred. He said detectives were still looking for witnesses.
Sheriff's officials ask anyone with information about the shooting to call Crime Stoppers at 521-4636. Tipsters also can e-mail tips through the Crime Stoppers Web site, www.modestopolice.com/CrimeStoppers, or text tips to CRIMES (274637) by typing "Tip704" plus a message. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2394.