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Modesto High students bring gifts to toddler shot in drive-by

Jorge and Sandra Becerra have nowhere to call home, but they will never spend another night in their H Street house with bullet holes in the brick facade.

It was in the small patch of a front yard that Jorge knelt with his toddler son, Josue, trying to stop the bleeding from a bullet wound in his abdomen. The boy, just shy of his second birthday, survived after being hit by stray gunfire last month.

"I'm really scared. I don't feel safe here. I don't feel safe outside. Being here reminds me of what happened," Josue's mother, Sandra Becerra, said in Spanish, her cheeks wet from crying. "We need a lot of help."

Help came from two blocks away Thursday afternoon when a group from Modesto High School brought envelopes stuffed with cash and bags of toys and clothing marked for "Little Josue."

"It gets us when it's someone so young and it's so close to us," said Brent Rodriguez, a Modesto High administrator. "We have students who walk up and down this street to school every day."

Students, teachers and administrators from the high school and Modesto City Schools' district office raised $1,500 for the family. Players from Modesto High's girls soccer team autographed a ball, and school clubs put together gift bags of coloring books, crayons and blankets.

"This is really tragic, it's really close to home," said junior Patrick Ip, who organized the fund-raiser with physical education teacher Carolyn Hutton. "We want to let the community know we don't tolerate this kind of violence."

Thursday was the second time the family has returned to the H Street home in three weeks, to pick up clothing and meet the Modesto High group who brought Josue gifts. The Becerra family has not found a permanent home since the shooting. The family did not want to talk about their living arrangements because they are afraid.

Bullet in boy's kidney

Josue has a bullet lodged in his kidney. His parents will take him to a Bay Area hospital next week for more tests.

Josue's father, a farmworker who came from Jalisco, Mexico, three years ago, still can't bring himself to talk about the shooting.

Modesto police have not made any arrests in the April 25 shooting, when a male passenger rose through the sunroof of a dark compact car and fired.

Investigators said they do not believe the Becerra house was the target.

"I ask myself why this happened to my child, of all people," Sandra Becerra said.

While the toddler was the only one hit by gunfire that night, Josue wasn't the only victim. His 6-year-old brother has had difficulty sleeping since he saw his younger brother shot.

Even after moving from the bullet-riddled house, it may be a long time before the Becerra family will sleep soundly again.

Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at mbalassone@modbee.com or 578-2337.

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