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Gangsters crash soldiers party
ortega mario
Mario Ortega

A going away party in Hilmar for a man joining the military was crashed by suspected gang members and escalated into a large brawl that injured several and resulted in four arrests.

The fight was reported at 2:40 a.m. Sunday at the Hilmar Grange Hall at 8188 Lander Ave. A large group of people had gathered to send off their friend who was departing for the military.

Several guests had donated money to the soldier and the money was being kept in two cash boxes.

A car load of suspected gang members from the Turlock, Hilmar and Delhi area arrived at the party uninvited and when they refused to leave, a fight erupted with more than 30 people engaging in the scuffle, said Merced County Sheriff Deputy Tom MacKenzie.

During the fight some of the suspected gang members grabbed the cash boxes with the donations.

Deputies arriving at the scene were able to apprehend four suspects and recover the donations, MacKenzie said.

Arrested were: Lynn Thayer, 19; Jesse Armenta, 19; Mario Ortega, 18; and a 17-year-old Hispanic male. All four were charged with armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and being involved in a criminal street gang. The three adults are being held in jail in lieu of $100,000 bail each.

Several men and women were injured during the fight and two were transported to Emanuel Medical Center with unknown injuries.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.