A road rage incident that began on the outskirts of Turlock touched off a shooting, which led to an arrest by a SWAT team and the discovery of a methamphetamine lab and a marijuana growing operation, the Merced County Sheriff’s Department reported.
No one was injured in the shooting, which was allegedly sparked by one of the victims “flipping off” the individuals in the suspect’s car because they were tailgating, sheriff spokesman Deputy Tom MacKenzie said.
The incident began around 6:30 p.m. Monday when the three victims — a 21-year-old man, a 20-year-old woman, and a 19-year-old woman — were returning home from a trip to Turlock.
As the three drove along Highway 165, a black two-door Lexus sped rapidly up behind them and began following at a close distance, MacKenzie said.
When the victims turned onto Third Avenue in Stevinson, the Lexus and its three occupants, all males, passed them. The Lexus sped off before pulling over onto the side of the road and turning on their hazard lights. As the victims drove up, one of the passengers stood up through the sunroof and fired two rounds from a handgun, which struck the right front tire and fender of the victim’s car, MacKenzie said. The victims then proceeded to their residence a short distance away and called the sheriff’s department as the suspects took off east bound.
A description was put out of the vehicle and the suspects and later Monday night the Merced Police Department contacted the sheriff’s department with a possible match, however, only two suspects were in the car. The victims were brought to the location of the traffic stop and positively identified the two occupants as being the driver and a passenger, but not the shooter, MacKenzie said. They were later identified as Edgardo Ambriz, 19, and Jose Ambriz-Lopez, 21, both of Palo Alto.
Through the investigation, the sheriff’s department was able to determine that the suspected shooter was staying at a residence in the 19000 block of Third Avenue in Stevinson. The Merced Sheriff’s SWAT Team was called out and they were able to extract the family that was living at the residence around 5 a.m. Tuesday. They then gave orders for Fidencio Perez, 40, of Stevinson to surrender, which he eventually did without incident, MacKenzie said. The weapon used, a semi-automatic handgun, was located in the house.
Perez was booked into Merced Jail on charges of shooting at a vehicle and remains on $250,000 bail.
During the course of the investigation, deputies discovered several marijuana plants growing in the backyard of the residence next door to the house they were surrounding. They also found a small methamphetamine lab operation in a trailer out back, MacKenzie said. A drug task force was called to the scene to process the marijuana and lab and shortly after the shooting suspect was taken into custody, a search warrant was served on the residence next door for the lab and grows. Agents from the task force discovered approximately one pound of methamphetamine with a street value of more than $20,000 and over 1,300 marijuana plants with a potential street value in the hundred thousands, MacKenzie said. Taken into custody for manufacturing methamphetamine was Jose Pena, 50, of Stevinson who remains in the Merced County Jail on $500,000 bail and Margaret Ann Dennett, 50, of Stevinson booked for possession, transportation and possession for sale of meth, committing a felony while on bail, and cultivation of marijuana. She remains jailed on $105,000 bail.
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