Merced boy injured in drive-by shooting

MERCED — A 12-year-old boy was injured in a drive-by shooting early Tuesday, the Merced County Sheriff's Department reported.

The boy is in stable condition at a Modesto hospital, sheriff's spokesman Tom MacKenzie said.

The boy was in a group of 12- and 13-year-old children about 1:15 a.m. when someone in a green four-door car drove by and shouted gang slurs at them, witnesses told the Sheriff's Department.

Those slurs prompted the group to go inside a house in the 3900 block of Celeste Avenue.

Someone in the car fired a large-caliber handgun at the house, wounding the boy in his lower back.

Deputies have little information about the shooter. Witnesses saw two Latino men and a white man in the green car. They were seen driving away on Kirby Road.

Detectives believe the shooter thought the teenagers in the Celeste Avenue home were rival gang members, but officers say the case could be one of mistaken identity.

"There is no indication that the kids belonged to any gang," MacKenzie said in a news release.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Merced County Sheriff's Department at 385-7472.