Meanwhile, the suspect in a shooting last month in east Patterson who was arrested by the Stanislaus County SWAT team April 5 was released from jail because of a lack of evidence.
Police received a report shortly before 8 p.m. Friday that four Latino males dressed all in black had fired several shots at a vehicle and then drove off northbound on First Street in a gold Pontiac Trans Am, Sgt. Joe Camarda said. No injuries or damage to the vehicle were reported, he said. The following day, a resident called police at about 2 p.m. after finding ammunition shells in a gutter along the 400 block of North First Street.
The shooting was in the same neighborhood where the SWAT team arrested Johnny Tovar, 22, at his home on Washburn Street and Weber Avenue on April 5. Police suspected that Tovar was involved in a March 23 shooting on East Las Palmas Avenue, but the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s office opted on April 7 not to file charges against him, Assistant District Attorney Carol Shipley confirmed. He was released from jail that same day.
Tovar was upset this week by his arrest, saying that the SWAT team had broken a window and that a nonlethal flash-bang grenade had destroyed a glass coffee table inside his home.
“That was a bunch of nonsense, what happened at my house,” he said.
Both Tovar and a 17-year-old boy were suspected of crimes related to a March 23 report that pedestrians lured a car to the roadside near the Valero service station and then fired guns at it. Police are still looking for the17-year-old boy whom they hoped to find at the Tovar residence April 5.
Police have been investigating the possibility that the East Las Palmas Avenue shooting might be connected with two other local shootings within the past two weeks — one near downtown and the other in east Patterson.
On March 30, a deputy reported hearing shots fired near First Street and Unidad Court and saw two males running away from him. The pair was never found, but deputies reported finding a parked vehicle on Unidad with bullet holes and broken windows. The victim in that case has not cooperated with police, and authorities suspect the violence is related to gangs or narcotics, said Sgt. John Walker of Patterson Police Services.
On April 5, police arrested Ernesto Santana, 39, of Patterson, on suspicion of attempted murder after a 20-year-old woman was shot in the ankle and the abdomen on the 500 block of West Las Palmas Avenue shortly after she left her car at a friend’s house. The woman needed surgery following the 2 a.m. shooting but is recovering, according to police.
Though authorities have not confirmed that the three cases are connected, it appears that might be the case, Walker said.
“Preliminary investigations are showing that it’s all the same core group of people that we’re investigating and that (the incidents) are all related,” he said.
On the other hand, there is no obvious evidence tying Friday’s shooting on First Street to the others, Camarda said.
In addition, police say none of those shootings appears to be related to a March 14 case in which Patterson residents Ignacio Michael Lopez, 21, and Jonathan Gilbert McKnight, 23, were arrested on suspicion of shooting a man at a marijuana grow house on the 1400 block of Carly Creek Drive in northwest Patterson. A March 31 incident in which a teenage boy fired a gun at a house on the 100 block of Shorthorn Street and a March 13 shooting of a man on the 2400 block of Olive Avenue in rural eastern Patterson also appear unrelated, according to police.
The recent spate of violence has worried residents and city leaders alike.
Councilwoman Annette Smith this week urged that the city hire more deputies and create a task force to deal with the violence, noting that the council will finally have an opportunity to hire more police in May.
“We can’t tolerate gang activity in this community, and gang and drug activity seems like what this is,” Smith said.
• Contact Jonathan Partridge at 892-6187 or email@example.com.