A depleted Oakdale Police Force was busy over the weekend in gang related incidents that started with Friday afternoon gunshots and then greater problems of a stabbing outside the Battered Beaver Bar in the early morning hours on Saturday, a person shot outside 7-11 on West F Street at midnight Saturday night, and a forcible assault reported early Sunday morning.
Police Sergeant Brian Shimmel said all of the incidents had some sort of gang involvement with the suspects in each of the incidents making gang identification statements during the attacks or having known gang affiliations.
On Saturday morning, July 12, slightly before 2 a.m., police were called to a large fight outside the Battered Beaver Bar in the intersection of Yosemite Avenue and F Street.
Shimmel said the preliminary investigation showed that when the victim, Justin Smitley, 29, and another male, John Dominguez, were leaving the bar they were confronted by a group of Norteno street gang members.
Shimmel said witnesses said the group claimed “OTN,” otherwise known as Oaktown Nortenos, when they encountered Smitley and Dominguez.
The group attacked Smitley and Dominguez who defended themselves until security from the bar broke up the fight using pepper spray.
Smitley is a Mixed Martial Arts fighter who competes as a bantam weight.
When police arrived the gang had fled and police contacted Smitley and Dominguez across the street from the bar.
It wasn’t until later that Smitley called police from his residence reporting he discovered he had been stabbed in his torso. Smitley was treated and released from Oak Valley Hospital.
On Sunday, July 13, at 12:17 a.m., emergency units responded to the 200 block of Gilbert Avenue for a 27-year-old male who had suffered a gunshot wound to his upper torso.
Police learned the victim, William Hernandez and a 15-year-old relative had been at the 7-11 convenience store and when they were leaving an unknown male wearing white and blue yelled out “Sur Trece” and fired a shot from a chrome revolver out of the passenger side of a parked SUV.
“Sur Trece” translated as “South 13,” and, police said, signifies Sureno street gang membership.
The SUV sped off and Hernandez realized he had been struck by the bullet. The relative helped Hernandez home to the Gilbert Apartments address.
Hernandez was immediately transported to Memorial Hospital in Modesto where he was treated for the gunshot wound and later released.
Through investigation and obtaining 7-11 security footage, investigators were able to obtain an image of the person in connection with the shooting.
Police were also called to the 400 block of North Fifth at 5 a.m. on Sunday, July 13 where a person reportedly broke into the residence and sexually assaulted someone inside. Police stated that the victim knew her attacker and he was identified as Antonio Ruiz Jr., 18, a known Norteno gang member in the Oakdale area. The case remains under investigation and police are looking for the suspect.
Sergeant Shimmel said the weekend started very active right away as units were called to gunshots in the area of North Sixth and Fifth avenues on Friday afternoon.
When they arrived in the area they conducted a probation search of a known suspect on North Fifth and recovered handcuffs, body armor, and ammunition at the residence.
“There were law enforcement markings on the handcuffs,” Shimmel said.
He declined to elaborate on the markings but stated the department was in the process of contacting local agencies to ascertain where they came from.
“We’re seeing an increase in gang activity this summer as the weather heats up,” said Shimmel.
The city’s police department has seen a harsh cut in staffing over the last few years due to budget issues.
While gang activity and the number of documented gang members has risen in the community, the department, once at 29 officers, now has only 19 authorized positions and faces further cuts pending the passage of a sales tax measure. To compound operational problems, the department is facing staffing vacancies due to a sergeant off on an extended injury and two persons that are in going through initial training before they can hit the street.
The Leader has also learned that one veteran police officer has given two-week notice to leave the department.