Man shot and killed on Highway 99 in Atwater

A man is dead after a shooting was reported Wednesday night on northbound Highway 99 near Franklin Road.

No suspects are in custody and the victim, a man in his 30s, was shot multiple times and pronounced dead at the scene, Merced County Sheriff's deputies said. No one else was hurt.

California Highway Patrol officers were first at the scene around 7:45 p.m. after receiving numerous 911 calls and notified the sheriff's department about the incident.

The sole occupant of a white Honda was driving northbound on Highway 99 when he was fired upon and shot by someone in another car. The victim's car veered off of the freeway, crashed through a chain-link fence. flipped over and traveled into the backyard of a house on the 4000 block of Ashby Road.

Sheriff Mark Pazin said while details are preliminary, the crime is likely gang-related, although he didn't elaborate on the evidence in the shooting. "There was a plan, scheme and design," Pazin said. "We don't believe it was an arbitrary shooting."

Pazin said it's unknown whether the victim fired back at his assailant. No description of the suspect or the suspect's car is available.

The death is the 25th homicide reported in Merced County this year.

The sheriff's department closed the northbound lanes of Highway 99, backing up traffic for hours. Anyone with information may call the Merced County Sheriff's Department Major Crime Unit at (209) 385-7472. Callers may remain anonymous.