Homeless man killed in New Year’s morning attack: First homicide of 2019 in Merced County

One man was killed and another wounded early Tuesday when someone opened fire on a tent in a homeless encampment on the southeastern outskirts of Merced.

The New Year’s Day slaying marked the first homicide of 2019 in Merced County, Sheriff Vern Warnke confirmed Tuesday.

No arrests have been made.

Investigators said it was too early to comment on many details in the case, citing a need to protect the investigation.

Lt. Chuck Hale confirmed the victim, a white male adult whose name was not released pending notification of his family, was shot multiple times around 3 a.m. and died in a homeless encampment near East Mission Avenue and Highway 99.

At least one person opened fire on the two victims while they were inside a tent in the area. At least one of the victims managed to get to a telephone and called 911. That man suffered a non-life-threatening gunshot wound to his arm. He was flown to a Modesto hospital, deputies confirmed.

The sheriff said investigators on Tuesday were still looking into any possible motives for the attack.

“There were a lot of ‘shots-fired’ calls (on New Year’s Eve) but this definitely wasn’t an accident. This shooting was specific,” Warnke said in a telephone interview. “We don’t know if they were targeted specifically or if this was random. We’re still investigating that.”

Investigators declined to comment on the specific number or type of weapon or weapons involved in the attack.

“We have identified persons of interest in this case and we’re actively looking to speak with them to talk about what they may know about this incident,” Hale told the Sun-Star.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Merced County Sheriff’s Office at 209-385-7472 or 209-385-7445.