(Press Release) On Wednesday night just after 7:00 p.m., Fresno Police officers from the Violent Crime Impact Team (VCIT) were conducting a uniformed patrol in Southwest Fresno when they heard several gunshots. The officers immediately drove towards the sound of the gunfire which appeared to come from a neighborhood in the area of Elm and Reverend Chester Riggins.
As the officers drove through the neighborhood, they saw a vehicle leave the area at a high rate of speed and began to follow. As the vehicle was being followed, the driver stopped on Holly just south of Lorena. Police found two men in the car; the driver, identified as 18-year-old Gustavo Machuca and a passenger, identified as 19-year-old Oscar Perez, both of Fresno.
While talking to the men, officers found that Perez had a superficial gunshot wound to his torso. Both Perez and Machuca told officers that while driving through the area, unknown subjects had fired several gunshots at their vehicle, striking Perez.
As officers were speaking to Perez and Machuca, several people called 9-1-1 to report a victim of a shooting in the 2700 block of S. Lotus. The calls came from the area where Perez and Machuca were first observed by officers fleeing in their vehicle.
Officers found a shooting victim, later identified as 24-year-old Julio Fidel Morales of Fresno, on Lotus just south of Reverend Chester Riggins. Morales was taken to Community Regional Medical Center, where he died from his injuries.
During their investigation, detectives learned that Machuca and Perez are Norteno gang members and that Julio Morales was a Bulldog gang member. Machuca and Perez fired several gunshots at Morales and his associates. During this time, unidentified subjects began shooting back at Machuca and Perez as they drove away. It was this return gunfire that struck Perez, causing the gunshot wound to his torso.
During this exchange of gunfire, Morales and Perez were the only subjects who sustained gunshot wounds.
After obtaining a search warrant, detectives located a firearm hidden inside of the vehicle used by Machuca and Perez during the shooting. Detectives also located three additional firearms during the search of a residence on Lotus belonging to Morales and his associates.
Perez was transported to Community Regional Medical Center for treatment and short time later was released. Machuca and Perez were booked Thursday morning into the Fresno County Jail for murder and being members of a criminal street gang.
Anyone with information regarding this murder is asked to call Fresno Police Department Homicide Detectives Leo Martinez at (559) 621-2441 or Chris Serrano at (559) 621-2452, or call CrimeStoppers at (559) 498-STOP.
This is Fresno’s fourteenth murder this year, this time last year the City of Fresno had thirteen murders.