A case of road rage Monday ended with the Merced County sheriff's SWAT team being deployed early Tuesday.
Monday around 6:30 p.m., Merced sheriff's Deputy Patrick Heaney responded to a call about someone shooting at a vehicle from another vehicle in the 20000 block of Third Avenue in Stevinson.
The victims, a 21-year-old man, a 19-year-old woman and a 20-year-old woman, were driving back from Turlock on Highway 165 when a black, two-door Lexus pulled up fast behind them and began tailgating them.
When the victims turned onto Third Avenue, the Lexus and its three occupants, all men, passed them, drove away some distance and then pulled over to the side of the road, turning on their hazard lights.
As the victims drove up, one of the passengers in the Lexus stood up through the sunroof and fired two rounds from a handgun, striking the victim's right front tire and fender.
The victims drove off and went to their residence a short distance away and called the sheriff's office.
The suspects took off eastbound. A description of the vehicle and its occupants was broadcast.
Later that night, the Merced Police Department contacted the sheriff's department reporting officers had stopped a vehicle matching the Lexus at Highway 99 and Childs Avenue in Merced. However, there were only two occupants.
Heaney responded to the location with the victims who positively identified the two occupants of the Lexus as being the driver and a passenger, but not the shooter.
They were identified as Edgardo Ambriz, 19, and Jose Ambriz-Lopez, 21, both of Palo Alto.
Heaney was able to determine that the shooter was staying at a residence in the 19000 block of Third Avenue in Stevinson.
When he went to the scene, he learned the suspect was inside the residence along with a family he was staying with.
The Merced sheriff's SWAT team was called out and was able to get the family out at just after 5 a.m. Tuesday.
They then told Fidencio Perez, 40, of Stevinson, to surrender, which he eventually did without incident.
The weapon used, a semiautomatic handgun, was located in the house where Perez was staying.
Perez was booked into Merced County Jail on charges of shooting at a vehicle and remains there on $250,000 bail.
The incident is believed to have begun because one of the victims made an obscene gesture at the Lexus for tailgating.
During the course of the investigation, several marijuana plants were discovered growing in the backyard of the residence next door to where the suspect was.
A small methamphetamine lab operation in a trailer out back was also found.
The Merced/Mariposa High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force was called to the scene to process the marijuana and lab.
Shortly after the shooting suspect was taken into custody, a search warrant was served on the residence next door for the lab and the marijuana.
Agents from the task force discovered about a pound of meth with a street value of more than $20,000 and more than 1,300 marijuana plants with a potential street value in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, authorities estimated.
Taken into custody on suspicion of manufacturing methamphetamine was Jose Pena, 50, of Stevinson, who remains in jail on $500,000 bail.
A second suspect allegedly connected to the lab was also arrested. Margaret Ann Dennett, 50, of Stevinson was booked on suspicion of possession, transportation and possession for sale of meth, committing a felony while on bail, and cultivation of marijuana. She remains in Merced County Jail on $105,000 bail.
Wednesday, Jun. 02, 2010