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POSTED August 27, 2010 11:01 p.m.

The Modesto Police Department has launched a manhunt for the suspect in the brutal killing of a mentally-challenged man.

Homicide detectives have identified Samuel Esequel Esquibel, 30, of Modesto as the prime suspect in the death of Ernie Hernandez Jr., 37, of Modesto.

At 7:23 p.m. Aug. 14, police officers were dispatched to a report of a man down in the parking lot of Humphrey’s College at 3600 Sisk Rd.

When officers arrived, they found Hernandez lying on the ground, suffering from multiple stab wounds. Hernandez later died as a result of the violent attack, said Modesto Police Sgt. Rick Armendariz.

Esquibel was identified through tips from the public after investigators released surveillance footage from a camera at a nearby apartment complex that showed a man running away from the area where Hernandez was found.

Investigators have obtained a $1 million dollar warrant for Esquibel’s arrest, Armendariz said.

 Esquibel has short black hair and brown eyes. He stands 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs about 210 pounds. He is a documented Norteno criminal street gang member and has several distinguishable tattoos, which consist of: A drawing of a “Huelga Bird” on the back of his neck; the word “SAN JOSE” tattooed across his stomach; and his name “ESQUIBEL” tattooed across his back.

 In addition, Esquibel has several other tattoos on his shoulders, biceps, and arms.  Some of those are the word “NORTE” and others may include Aztec-style pictures that depict males and females. 

 Esquibel has friends and associates both in the Central Valley and the Bay Area. He is considered armed and dangerous and investigators are encouraging the public to call the police if they may have any information as to the whereabouts of Esquibel. 

 This is an ongoing investigation and investigators are actively following up on additional leads and tips. Police ask anyone who may have information regarding this incident to call the Modesto Police Tip Line at 342-6166 or Crime Stoppers toll free at 521-4636. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward. Tipsters can also text information to Crime Stoppers by sending a text message to 274637. Just type “TIP704” along with your message.

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