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Police, deputies scour Modesto for clues in two weekend shootings

Modesto police and Stanislaus County Sheriff’s deputies are continuing today to scour for clues in two separate weekend shootings of children.

A toddler was shot in the liver and the kidney as he played in his front yard in west Modesto on Friday but he has survived. A 14-year-old died and a 15-year-old was wounded in south Modesto 2½ hours later as they tried to escape gunfire from a passing car.

Police suspect the second shooting was gang related. They are also looking at that possibility in the toddler’s shooting.

Investigators have yet to connect the cases. But they are continuing a dragnet search that started over the weekend of people on parole and probation with histories of drug and gang involvement for anything that might produce leads in the case, said police officer Michael Amarillas.

“We will continue until we have information developed to get this solved,” he said.

As of mid-day today, he said authorities had interviewed an undisclosed number of people in the shooting of 22-month-old Josue Becerra. He was listed in good condition. The hospital would not say if he was still in intensive care, as he had been at least through Saturday afternoon.

But so far, Amarillas said, he did not know of any interviews related to the death of 14-year-old Valdimar Rojas Jr. and the shooting of the 15-year-old with him. The 15-year-old was shot in the back and has since been released from the hospital.

Authorities have no suspect in either case, Amarillas said.

Meanwhile, he said, officers assigned to Modesto City Schools are on heightened awareness for gang activity.

School staff were also providing extra security at at least some campuses according to Jorge Perez, outreach and intervention coordinator for the school district.

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