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Demonstration Held in Protest of Modesto Officer Involved in Fatal Shooting

Carlos Rodriguez

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MODESTO – A demonstration was held Saturday in protest against the Modesto Police Officer involved in the shooting death of a man on December 29th.

About 100 or so people gathered in front of the police department near the intersection of 10th and G Streets at about 11:00am. Many held signs urging justice for Trevor Seever, who was 29 years old. Seever was shot by Joseph Lamantia, who has been an officer with the department for 12 years. Many in attendance voiced their criticism against Lamantia, who was previously involved in several other shootings during his time at the department.

Police responded to the 2300 block of Woodland Avenue in Modesto on the day of occurrence, after receiving a 911 call from relatives of Seever’s. The 911 call was made by Seever’s sister, and released in a video by the Modesto Police Department. The recording indicated that Seever had purchased a firearm the night before, and had made vague threats toward his relatives. According to a press release by the Modesto Police Department, Seever had send text messages to his family indicating he was on his way to their home.

In a video briefing posted to the department’s YouTube channel, Interim Police Chief Brandon Gillespie stated that officers had previous contact with Seever, who had made anti-law enforcement posts to his social media accounts earlier in the month. This prompted safety bulletins to be distributed to responding officers.

Lamantia was first to arrive in the area and located Seever at the Modesto Church of the Brethren on Woodland Avenue. Bodycam video released by the department shows the officer with his gun already in hand before exiting his vehicle and firing his gun at Seever less than ten seconds after he spotted the individual. It is unclear what Seever was doing at the church before he was located, but relatives on Saturday stated he was sitting on a bench.

Within those ten seconds, Lamantia broadcasted over his radio that he was engaging in a foot pursuit and shouted for Seever to get on the ground twice before opening fire. Four shots were fired at Seever, who was near the northwest corner of a building at the church complex approaching a parking lot. The unclear video appears to show Seever attempting to run away.

Lamantia advanced and ordered Seever to show his hands after broadcasting he had fired his weapon. In the background, Seever can be seen with his hands raised. The officer then provided his location to dispatch as Seever can be seen moving his right arm in the background. It is unclear if he was holding onto something to maintain balance, however his left arm can still be seen raised as Lamantia fires his weapon again. At this point in the video, Seever falls over screaming in pain. The officer then advances to cover behind a tree.

Seever was provided aid by officers and rushed to a hospital, but he later died. Officers were unable to find a weapon at the scene.

“I haven’t even watched the whole thing,” said Katrina Rodriguez in regard to the police video. “It’s ridiculous to see how destructive and horrific he went in with the intent to kill my cousin.”

Although she described the body cam video as difficult to watch, Rodriguez said she and her family are glad that it exists.

“How many people were shot and killed without a bodycam? Thankfully we got to see the bodycam, but how many didn’t have that?” Rodriguez said her family believes the video is vital evidence that can potentially shed light on her cousin’s case. She questioned why the officer was allowed to remain on the force given his history.

Lamantia was involved in several other shootings, some of them fatal. On September 6th 2010, Francisco Moran was shot and killed after police responded to a disturbance. It was believed Moran was armed with a knife, but it was later determined to be a spatula. In June of 2016, Lamantia was involved in a shooting during a narcotics operation that killed 21 year old Omar Villagomez in Turlock. The shooting happened near the Starbucks at West Main Street and Highway 99. Later that year on October 8th, Lamantia would also be involved in a shooting that killed Kim Jackson. Jackson, a 53 year old woman, was armed with knives and charged officers during that incident according to a press release. On October 20th 2020, Lamantia was involved in the shooting of double homicide suspect David Cummings Jr. in Stockton. He survived that shooting and is currently awaiting trial.

“It sucks that it has to be this way,” Seever’s cousin continued. “Maybe it’s all for a reason. Maybe they will finally see the consequences.”

The group left signs and posters on the steps and memorial statue at the police department. Some notes had expletives directed toward the officer, while others asked for justice in the loss of their relative.

Rodriguez said her family was looking into legislation like Assembly Bill 392 which redefines the circumstances in which deadly use of force by police is justifiable. Under that law, deadly force can only be used when defending against imminent threat to life or bodily injury, or to apprehend a fleeing suspect when the officer believes they will cause serious injury or death unless immediately apprehended.

Seever’s loved ones said no matter the circumstances, they did not anticipate his death to be an outcome and believe he could still be alive had a different officer responded first.

“You do not get to choose who lives or dies because you want to be the savior of the day,” Rodriguez added.

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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