Man shot dead in Modesto's airport neighborhood

One man was shot to death and another pistol-whipped in an early morning attack on Wednesday in Modesto’s airport neighborhood, authorities said.

Five people were taken into custody following a cross-town pursuit that ended in the Parklawn Avenue area of north Ceres/south Modesto, according to officer Scott Nelson, spokesman for the Modesto Police Department.

Police responded to a 12:36 a.m. call of people arguing and yelling in front of a house at 611 Thrasher Ave., between Oregon Drive and Larkin Avenue and a few doors south of Oregon Drive Community Park, Nelson said.

Police heard reports of gunfire as they were driving to the scene. When they arrived, they found a Latino man in the back yard of the home with multiple gunshot wounds. He was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Officers heading to the home saw a car matching the one described by witnesses as potentially being involved in the incident, Nelson said.

Police tried to stop the car, but the driver fled. A five-minute pursuit led officers from multiple agencies into the 800 block of Parklawn. There, the suspects reportedly ditched the car and took off running, hopping backyard fences and spreading out.

Officers were able to round up all the suspects without incident within about 30 minutes, Nelson said.They were in custody as of late Wednesday morning.

The victim’s identification is being withheld until his family can be reached, Nelson said. The names of the suspects and their hometowns were not available.

One other person at the scene also was attacked, and suffered injuries that did not threaten his life. Police did not identify that man.

Kenny DeRieux, who lives a few houses away from where the shooting took place, was in his back yard at the time of the shooting smoking a cigarette when he heard the gunfire.

“I heard one loud shot,” he said. “Then I heard something slide and hit the ground.

“I could tell they were shot.”

He said he went into his house and heard police sirens minutes later. He went outside after police arrived, and he said they told him to return to his house.

By mid-morning Wednesday, police tape that surrounded the neighborhood had been cut away. It remained up in the alley that abuts the back yard where police found the shooting victim.

In the spacious back yard, there seemed to be a living space attached to the house with at least one bed, along with overgrown grass and a car.

One window in the back yard, and at least one other on the side of the house along the driveway, had glass that had been broken out.

A woman who requested anonymity and said she was there to keep the house from being burglarized said a man and a small child lived at the house and were there at the time of the shooting. She also said the shooting victim did not live at the house.

None of what she said has been confirmed by police.

She, along with another neighbor, said the tenants were renters, and had lived there a couple of months.

It’s the second fatal shooting in the 600 block of Thrasher Avenue in less than a year.

On July 5, a 33-year-old Modesto man was shot a few houses away from this morning’s incident.The victim, Rene Luna Navarro of Modesto, died three days later.

Detectives later arrested 21-year-old Modesto resident David Garza on suspicion of murder and using a firearm to commit a felony.

There have been other shootings over the years near the Thrasher-Larkin intersection, and in 2004, in the nearby park, 17-year-old Ernestina “Tina” DeJesus Tizoc was shot to death in a gang-related attack.

“It’s scary,” said a woman in front of the house she grew up in, which sits a few doors away from 611 Thrasher. She now shares it with her father and her three children.

DeRieux said he knows some of his neighbors, but said “I kind of mind my own business.”

Police spent most of the early morning hours interviewing witnesses, while also combing the route taken by the suspect. At one point, a lane of Mitchell Road south of Tenaya Drive next to the Modesto Airport was closed while detectives searched for possible evidence.

Officers from Modesto, the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department, Ceres Police and the California Highway Patrol all worked the incident.

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