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Fourth suspect in Turlock shooting arrested
Fernando Venegas
Fernando Venegas

A fourth man wanted in connection with a fatal September shooting in Turlock was captured by the Merced County Sheriff's Office SWAT team, the Turlock Police Department reported.

Fernando Venegas, 32, was apprehended on Dec. 23 in Merced County and was subsequently charged with murder, attempted murder, assault with a firearm, being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm and criminal street gang activity. He was booked into the Stanislaus County Jail.

Venegas was being sought in connection with the murder of Mario Meza, 26, of Modesto. Meza was killed on Sept. 7 at a motel in the 200 block of N. Tully Road.

Meza was shot once around 4 a.m. that morning and was taken by emergency medical technicians to an area hospital, where he died from his injuries during surgery.

Ceres resident Miguel Saldate, 19, was located at the scene of the shooting. He was not injured and was taken to the police department for questioning, Turlock Police spokesperson Sgt. Michael Parmley said. Saldate was subsequently arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, as well as other felony charges, according to the police department. Saldate’s arrest for attempted murder relates to other individuals involved in the incident and not Meza.

As the investigation continued, detectives identified Juan Jose Cruz Jr., 19, of Modesto; Eric Rodriguez, 26, of Patterson; and Venegas as suspects in the shooting.

Cruz was questioned at the Turlock Police Department on Sept. 9 and subsequently arrested Sept. 16 for homicide, attempt homicide, aggravated assault and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Cruz was later booked into the Stanislaus County Jail.

On Sept. 17, detectives located Rodriguez in Newman and attempted to take him into custody during a traffic stop. Rodriguez fled and a brief pursuit ensued before Rodriguez drove into an orchard and abandoned the vehicle. He attempted to flee on foot, but was caught in the 100 block of East 5th Street in Crows Landing.

Rodriguez was questioned at the Turlock Police Department and was subsequently arrested and booked at the Stanislaus County Jail for homicide, attempt homicide, shooting at an occupied vehicle, evading a peace officer, felon in possession of a firearm and participating in a criminal street gang.

The Turlock Police Department believes the shooting was gang related.

The Turlock Police Detectives ask that anyone with information on the case to call Detective Timothy Redd at (209) 664-7325. You can also contact the Turlock Police Department’s Tip Line at (209) 668-5550 extension 6780 or email at

The Turlock Police Department is an active participant in the Crime Stoppers Program. Callers can leave an anonymous tip by calling Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636 and may be eligible for a cash reward.