Courts & Crime

Quadruple arrests in double homicide

A rock-throwing incident and gang-related squabble that led to murder.

That's what Merced County sheriff's investigators believe may have motivated the killings of two males near Dos Palos last week.

The department announced four arrests in the double homicide case Thursday, along with details about the possible motive behind the killings. The suspects, Jose Vidal German, 20, Bryan Bridgeford, 20, and a 17-year-old boy, were taken into custody on suspicion of committing the killings, after detectives served three search warrants in the Dos Palos area early Tuesday morning, according to Deputy Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman.

MacKenzie said the fourth suspect, a 16-year-old boy, was arrested Thursday in connection with the case at a residence in the 900 block of Golden Gate Avenue in Dos Palos. MacKenzie said it's unknown whether the 16-year-old boy will face homicide charges. He was booked on suspicion of violating his probation.

The victims, 21-year-old Juan Avalos of Dos Palos and 16-year-old Lionel Medina, were killed around 1 a.m. on Jan. 5, inside a detached garage in the 19000 block of Highway 33, at the residence where Medina lived. The victims were pronounced dead at the scene by medical personnel.

Sheriff Mark Pazin said detectives believe the suspects engaged in a gang-related argument with the victims in the days before the killings.

That argument included a rock-throwing incident between both sides, which may have precipitated the killings, Pazin said.

"The gang lifestyle is not a lifestyle. It becomes a death sentence," Pazin said. "And that's what happened here, on Highway 33. It started off with people claiming different colors and such, escalated into some type of rock-throwing incident and ends up with two people being killed."

Read the full story at the Merced Sun-Star.