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Man wanted for Delhi shooting caught after vehicle pursuit
Juan Martin Zapata
Juan Martin Zapata

A Turlock man with a long connection to a criminal street gang and wanted for a Delhi shooting was apprehended in Turlock Saturday after two pursuits with law enforcement.

Juan Martin Zapata, 23, was taken into custody Saturday afternoon in the 300 block of Angelus Street after fleeing from police earlier in the day.

Zapata has been wanted by the Merced County Sheriff’s Department for the attempted murder of a man whose bullet-riddled body was found in a Delhi yard in 2012.

Agents with the Stanislaus County Auto Theft Task Force spotted Zapata driving in Turlock in a 2006 Lexus that had been reported stolen out of Emeryville. Turlock police officers attempted to pull Zapata over, but he sped off instead.

The pursuit, which reach at times hit speeds in excess of 70 mph on surface streets and residential areas, was headed toward Hilmar when Turlock police officers called it off out of safety concerns.

A short time later the vehicle was spotted again, with California Highway Patrol officers and Stanislaus County Sheriff’s deputies giving chase. The CHP deployed a spike strip that led to the Lexus becoming disabled in the 300 block of Angelus Street.

Zapata has been a wanted man by Merced County since Oct. 25, 2012. Deputies were dispatched to the 9000 block of Countryside Ave. in Delhi, where they found one man with multiple gunshot wounds. Despite being shot several times, none of the wounds proved fatal and the victim was able to help investigators identify his shooter as Zapata.

In May 2010, Zapata was one of six men arrested and charged with a drive-by shooting that occurred in the 1300 block of Lambert Way in Turlock. The men were caught in the vicinity of the shooting in a vehicle with a .22-caliber revolver.

Zapata entered a plea of no contest to a charge of carrying a loaded firearm and the other charges of shooting at an inhabited dwelling and participating in a criminal street gang were dismissed. However, the case is now listed as reopened because of his recent arrest, according to Stanislaus County Superior Court records.

Zapata is being held at the Stanislaus County Jail on felony charges of fleeing a peace officer, evading a peace officer, auto theft, and possession of stolen property, as well as misdemeanor charges of hit and run and unlawful to drive without a valid license. Zapata has a hearing set for Thursday.