State

Bloody week in Modesto: 3 dead

Police detectives continue to look for leads in the shooting deaths of two men Thursday night in a west Modesto alley near Marshall Park while tips from the public were scarce.

Stanislaus County coroner officials did not release the names of the victims because they had not notified the families of the two men. Modesto police declined to release the victims' ages for the same reason.

No arrests had been made, and police did not have a description of a suspect or suspects.

Residents who live near the crime scene said they didn't know the victims and wondered if they lived in the area.

The shooting occurred in the alley just east of the 400 block of Alturas Avenue, between Western Way and South Avenue. Neighbors said the violent attack took place behind a single-story house that has been vacant for several months.

"We've seen some people come to make repairs at the home, but nobody has been living there," said Jesus Duran, 50, who lives on Alturas Avenue. "I don't know why they would come down here and shoot those two men in the alley."

About 7:20 p.m., Modesto police responded to a report of shots fired near Alturas and Western Way. Officers arrived and found the two gunshot victims in the alley.

The victims were taken by ambulance to a Modesto hospital, where they were pronounced dead.

Modesto police used an automated phone messaging system called HipLink to notify nearby residents about the shooting deaths and ask them to call a crime hot line if they had information about the murders. The messages were sent about 10 p.m. to gain crucial tips early on in the investigation.

Investigators, however, had not received any tips from the hot line, said police spokesman Sgt. Brian Findlen.

"We have to rely on tidbits of information," Findlen said. "Unfortunately, we don't have those tips at this time."

He said the detectives are looking into the possibility the shooting was gang-related.

Gunshots common, residents say

Neighbors said the sound of gunshots is not uncommon for residents on Alturas Avenue. On Thursday night, residents gathered near the alley to watch in shock as medics pulled out the two men on gurneys on their way to the hospital.

On Friday afternoon, life seemed to return to normal in the neighborhood as parents walked their kids home from school and residents sold their unwanted belongings in yard sales.

Duran, who has lived there for 15 years, was out walking his small dog along the street, not far from where the shooting occurred. He said he has heard more gunshots coming from the Sutter Avenue area than on his street.

"I heard the shots last night, and I thought it was the branches falling again," he said referring to the storm earlier this month that knocked down large trees and branches throughout the region. "After I saw the police on my street, I just stayed inside."

Another resident, who lives near the crime scene, said she heard voices coming from the alley after she heard the gunshots.

"I heard someone gasping for air," said the woman, who was concerned for her safety and declined to give her name. "Then I heard someone saying, 'Hurry up. Hurry up.' But I didn't see anyone leaving the alley; or a car."

Detectives ask anyone with information about this shooting to call the Modesto Police Department at 572-9500 or 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 are eligible for a cash reward.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or 578-2394.

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