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Turlock Homelessness Emergency, Cleanup Planned For Thursday

Carlos Rodriguez

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TURLOCK – A cleanup was planned for Thursday morning at a West Main Street property where a large homeless encampment established itself near several businesses.

City officials were at the camp Wednesday afternoon handing out notices to people staying there. The camp sits on property on the south side of West Main Street in between South Tully and South Soderquist Road. By Wednesday afternoon several of the campers were already packing up their belongings, and those with vehicles were working to get them roadworthy.

“None of us know where we are going to go,” said Dawn Ross, who temporarily found herself camping at the location for the last week after her vehicle broke down. Ross said she became homeless off and on after losing her job 11 years ago during the great recession.

“I tried to get the part for it, but we got the wrong one,” she said of her car. “Hopefully we can get the car fixed by tomorrow.”

Turlock Mayor Amy Bublak said in a video statement that the city is working toward a solution.

“No one should live like that, no one should have their businesses harmed or the residents harmed by all that’s going on,” the mayor said. “It’s a health and safety hazard for everyone involved.”

Back at the camp, Ross explained that in an ideal situation, no one wanted to be camped at the property. She feels that the cleanups are not a long term solution to the problem.

“I wish Turlock could do something like what Modesto did,” she said. Ross referred to the Modesto Outdoor Emergency Shelter that was implemented in 2019.

“Just designate a space for these people. Somewhere out of sight and out of mind.”

Ross acknowledged that some people experiencing homelessness traditionally have problems that require rehabilitation, but feels there is a lack of services provided in the Turlock area for them.

“This is going to push people into alleyways, into the doorsteps of businesses and parks,” Ross explained. “At least everyone was confined right here.”

Advocates visited the camp Wednesday to offer what little outreach they could to the population there. Some explained that people experiencing homelessness have a hard time transitioning to a shelter due to rules and curfews set at facilities.

“They’re not animals, they’re human beings,” Ross said. “People need to have compassion. We’re all just a few steps away from homelessness, it can happen to anybody.”

Carlos Rodriguez is an Emmy Award winning photojournalist specializing in public safety and natural disasters. His passion for local news stems from a deep commitment to his community, with a selfless mission to inform the citizens of the valley. As he worked on assignment for 19 days at the devastating Camp Fire in Paradise, California, he spent most of his time helping survivors contact their loved ones to let them know they were ok. Carlos is a veteran of Univision, FOX, and Telemundo TV stations and a native of Modesto, California.

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Family Seeks Justice in Strawberry Fields Park Murder

Gaby Muro

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Police cars block Malik Avenue during a shooting investigation on January 11th, 2021.

CERES – A 17 year old boy was charged in the January murder of Miguel Angel Peña of Ceres, who was shot at Strawberry Fields Park and died days later at a hospital.

“I have questions of why,” Fabiola said. Her family could not make any sense of why anyone would do something like this to her brother Sebastián as he was known by his loved ones.

“I think we were full of frustration,” she added. “We have no answers and we wanted to know what was going on.”

Sebastián’s loss is a further blow to her family since the loss of her mother Lupita, who passed away only a couple months prior from cancer. The loss of both of their loved ones have left her relatives in deep depression and uncontrollable anxiety.

“He didn’t just hurt someone,” Fabiola said of the accused. “He hurt a whole family, friends and others.”

Fabiola described her brother as hard working and family oriented. Often working throughout the day with her father or brother. Together they worked in landscaping yards, power washing, or construction jobs.

“What I’m going to miss the most is his caringness,” Fabiola said of her brother. “He always did more for everyone else than he did for himself, and he would always put other people before himself.”

Fabiola said her family has found peace in the thought that her brother and mother are together, and that her family is now focusing on finding justice for Sebastián. They understand the road is long with an expected court case, and are looking forward to being advocates for her brother.

“Me and my other four siblings will speak on behalf of Sebastián, and make sure he gets the justice that he deserves.”

Asuzena Peña, another of Sebastián’s sisters, added that they are glad the suspect turned himself in, but are looking forward to justice being served.

She said her family won’t be satisfied and won’t rest “Until he is trialed and imprisoned for life.” They don’t want another killing they described as ruthless and without thinking.

One day at a time, one step at a time is how the Peña family describes how they will proceed. Through family and through their faith.

“God’s timing is perfect,” Fabiola explained. “It was about to be three months since this happened, and we got a sign. Hopefully this helps, and everything moves faster.”

The arrest happened Wednesday, according to a press release by the Ceres Police Department. The suspect, who according to authorities turned himself in, was booked into Juvenile Hall and faces charges including murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and robbery.

Because he is only 17, the suspect’s identity was not released. Police did say he was from Modesto, however and that the investigation is ongoing.

The shooting originally occurred on January 11th near the area of Malik Avenue and Hackett Road. Sebastián was struck by gunfire along with another passenger he was with in a vehicle. The bullets were fired from a passing car, and struck several neighboring homes. A second round of gunshots were fired as the vehicle drove off. The incident was captured on several home surveillance cameras.

Sebastián was taken home and dropped off by those he was with. He was found by his loved ones, suffering from his injuries in the front yard. Police and medics responded and he was taken to a hospital where he fought for his life, but he died a few days later.

The incident has left Sebastián’s family shattered, a feeling that his sister Fabiola described Thursday afternoon after receiving word that someone was finally being held accountable.

Sebastián was 18 when his life was taken. He is survived by his father Javier, and siblings Javier Jr, Goretty, Jonathan, Asuzena and Fabiola.

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Teen Shot, Crashes into Residence

Carlos Rodriguez

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STOCKTON – A 14 year old boy was taken to the hospital after being shot Wednesday afternoon.

At about 1:33pm officers responded to the 8500 block of Acapulco Way for a report of a person shot. Authorities said the victim was driving in the area when two suspects approached on foot and shot at him.

The victim was hit and drove off, colliding into the yard of a nearby residence. He was taken to a hospital to be treated. Police said the victim was expected to survive.

No motive was available, but police believe the suspects to be two black male juveniles. No further description was released.

Anyone with information regarding this case is encouraged to contact Crime Stoppers at (209) 946-0600 where callers can remain anonymous.

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Two People Reported Shot, Police Investigate

Carlos Rodriguez

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STOCKTON – Police responded to a report of two people shot early Monday evening.

The incident was reported shortly before 7:00pm near the intersection of East 8th and Anne Streets. Early reports indicated two people were struck by gunfire.

Responding officers were unable to locate victims in the area, they had apparently transported to a hospital via private vehicle.

Anyone with information regarding this case can contact Crime Stoppers at (209) 946-0600 where callers can remain anonymous.

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