A shootout in downtown Turlock on Saturday left one man dead and another injured, marking it as Turlock’s first homicide of 2023. Less than 24 hours later and within eyesight of the first, Turlock Police detectives were called out to the scene of the city’s second.
In both cases, the roots of the altercations started at downtown bars and spilled onto the streets at closing time.
No suspects have been identified in either case.
In the first homicide, the deceased was identified by the police department as Romeo Portillo, 21, of Patterson. The injured man is a 20-year-old from Patterson.
In the second homicide the deceased was identified by the Turlock Police Department as Robert Morgan, 31, of Turlock.
The first case involved an exchange of gunfire between two groups at 2:06 a.m. Saturday in the area of Market Street and South Broadway.
Officers quickly arrived at the scene and found evidence of a shootout and that someone had been wounded, but everyone involved had already fled the scene.
Officers started searching the area and located a gray 2018 Honda sedan in the area of East Main Street and Bonita Avenue. The two passengers in the Honda – Portillo and the 20-year-old both had sustained gunshot wounds, said Turlock Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Parmley.
Officers provided immediate medical care for the two gunshot victims until emergency medical personnel arrived and transported them to local area hospitals. Portillo died as a result of his injuries and the 20-year-old victim remains in the hospital and is in stable condition, Parmley said.
The driver of the Honda, Gary Jackson, 22, of Patterson was arrested for possession of a firearm and transported to the Turlock Police Department for questioning, then booked at the Stanislaus County Jail for possession of a loaded and concealed firearm.
The evidence collected at the scene showed that more than one firearm was used “and further suggests there were two groups of individuals involved,” Parmley said.
Investigators have not yet established a motive for the shooting, but did learn it stemmed from an altercation at a local bar and does not appear to be a random act of violence.
“This investigation is a top priority for our detectives and we ask that anyone who may have information about the identity of any involved Individuals to please come forward,” said Detective Sgt. Victor Barcelos. “The safety of the public is our number one concern.”
Detectives were still in the midst of investigating Portillo’s death when they were dispatched out to the city’s second fatal shooting in as many days.
At 1:38 a.m. Sunday the police department was notified of a shooting that had just occurred behind the Udder Place and Grand Cru on Main Street in downtown Turlock.
Morgan was a security guard at Grand Cru, but was there off-duty spending time with friends. At some point the security at the bar had to escort out several Hispanic men involved in an altercation, said Parmley.
“Security was able to move the involved parties outside, but the fight continued, and Morgan stepped in while off duty to assist his co-workers,” Parmley said in a news release.
Morgan was reportedly in a physical altercation with another man near the rear of The Udder Place, and during this time an unidentified occupant of a dark colored sedan stopped, got out, and fired multiple gunshots at the victim before getting back into the vehicle and fleeing the scene.
When officers arrived at the scene they found Morgan with multiple gunshot wounds. The officers immediately undertook life-saving measures until emergency medical personnel arrived and rushed Morgan to a hospital. Morgan died at 2:16 a.m. from his injuries, according to the police department.
A perimeter was established around the downtown bars as detectives processed the scene, which included examining evidence including video surveillance, and conducting interviews with relevant parties. Additional resources including the Major Accident Investigation Team and Special Investigations Unit were brought in to support Detectives in the investigation and use specialized equipment to process the crime scene, Parmley said.
Jerry Powell is the owner of Grand Cru. He made the decision to close the establishment for the next two weeks to “review internal processes and procedures related to evaluating and improving safety measures at this establishment,” according to the police department.
“I had a discussion with Mr. Powell regarding this tragedy at Grand Cru, and he let me know he is heartbroken at the loss a valued staff member and friend,” said Turlock Chief of Police Jason Hedden. “He also informed me that he is closing his business immediately to conduct a review and ensure that Grand Cru is a safe place for both patrons and employees.
“I am employing new, state of the art technologies and resources to combat violent crime in our city to keep our residents and businesses safe and secure,” Hedden said. “We will not tolerate this kind of activity and want our residents to know we are working hard and will continue to update the public as information can be shared during these investigations.”
Barcelos said the shootings did not appear to be related.
The shootings may not be related, but the spate of deadly violence in the downtown area has unnerved residents, business owners and city officials.
“Turlock has experienced two shootings this weekend in the downtown corridor and this is both devastating and unacceptable,” said Turlock Mayor Amy Bublak. “My heart goes out to the families of the victims involved. As Mayor, I can assure you our Chief of Police Jason Hedden is employing new technologies and resources to combat violent crime in our city, and your Turlock City Council supports our police and their tireless efforts to ensure we all have a city where we can shop, work and live safely.”
The Turlock Police Department asks that anyone with information about Portillo’s death to call Detective Gina Giovacchini at (209) 668-6539. Anyone with information about Morgan’s death is asked to call Detective Raul Garcia at (209) 664-7314. Tipsters can also contact the Turlock Police Department’s Tip Line at (209) 668-5550 extension 6780 or email at email@example.com.
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.