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Lodi police search for suspect in Tuesday shooting

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Posted: Wednesday, June 25, 2003 10:00 pm

Lodi police officers on Wednesday searched for a Stockton teen they believe shot and killed a 19-year-old Lodi man in front of an East Walnut Street home.

The victim, Luis Eduardo Caracosa, of Lodi, was gunned down outside a house at 404 E. Walnut St. late Tuesday night, police said.

Officers obtained a $3.5 million arrest warrant for 17-year-old Anthony Trung Do, whose last known address was in Stockton, Lodi police Sgt. Chris Piombo said.

Though he is a juvenile, police released Do's name because they believe he is armed and dangerous, Piombo said.

After a full day of investigation, officers stopped traffic on Lower Sacramento and Woodhaven roads late Wednesday afternoon as the SWAT team converged on an Eilers Lane apartment. Though they believed he might have been staying at the residence, police did not locate Do, Piombo said.

Detectives later served a search warrant on the apartment but no arrests were made, Piombo said.

The shooting happened at 10:41 p.m. Tuesday when police received 9-1-1 calls about a fight outside a residence, said Lodi police Sgt. Bill Barry.

A Lodi resident who said he witnessed the shooting declined to give his name, but he said the fight started with a "bad look of disrespect" from someone he had never seen before.

He and a friend stood around the corner from the crime scene Wednesday, waiting for police to release their vehicle from within the crime scene marked off with yellow police tape.

The two said Caracosa had only been at the party for a few minutes before the shooting started, and one of the unidentified men said the suspect was also shooting at him, though he was injured.

Caracosa was shot in the chest with what police believe was a 9 mm handgun, Piombo said.

An autopsy was conducted Wednesday, said Sgt. Bill Fellers with the San Joaquin County Coroner's Office, but the cause of death was not immediately released.

In addition to Caracosa, 20-year-old Alex Tamez, of Lodi, was hospitalized with a gunshot wound that went through his arm, Detective Sierra Brucia said.

Tamez was treated and released Wednesday from Lodi Memorial Hospital, according to spokeswoman Carol Farron.

As police began gathered evidence Wednesday morning, neighbors got coffee and watched from outside their homes.

About a dozen cars had parked on the street Tuesday evening for a barbecue, but then things began to get out of control, said Pernell Gutierriez, who lives across the street and two houses down from 404 E. Walnut St.

He saw a white car park in front of his house and then saw several people stumbling and walking down the street, Gutierriez said. Then he heard what he thought were firecrackers and went to peek out his front door.

"I saw a guy raise his arms, and then there was a boom and he fell backward. I got that warm head-rush feeling when I saw him get shot," Gutierriez said.

"It was so close, I saw the sparks from the gun," he added.

A police officer arrived shortly after the shooting, but it took several minutes for additional officers to gain control of the chaotic scene, Barry said.

Approximately 25 people had been at the party, and while many quickly scattered, some people fled into the house, police said.

Several people emerged within a half an hour, but when two remained in the house and refused to leave, the SWAT and Critical Incident Negotiations Teams were called in as police evacuated the house next door.

Ricardo Lupian and his wife, who live in the neighboring house to the east, were in a bedroom facing 404 E. Walnut St. when they heard arguing about 10 feet from their window.

"Then I heard about four shots, and I rolled off the bed," Lupian said.

When SWAT team members told the couple to evacuate so police could use their back yard, Lupian complied and spent the rest of the night watching from the sidewalk a few doors down.

New to the neighborhood, Lupian has only lived next door to the white house for about seven months and hadn't had any problems with neighbors, he said.

Lawns in the block are neatly trimmed and other neighbors said they've had no problems.

"I know we're on the Eastside, but we've never had any problems," said Sheryl Fakhouri, who bought her home three years ago. "The only incident was a drunk man walking down the street singing."

Like her neighbors, Fakhouri heard the commotion across the street, even though her sister, a friend and their children were visiting.

Thinking the party-goers were lighting fireworks, Fakhouri opened her front door to take a look, her children close behind her.

But then she heard a woman screaming, "He's got a gun," Fakhouri said Wednesday morning as evidence technicians gathered bullet casings from the lawn across the street.

"I turned around, threw my kids on the floor and grabbed the phone," she said, still startled by the maternal instinct, hours after the incident.

An armored SWAT vehicle had parked in the street Tuesday night, and the police and fire mobile command unit was soon set up around the corner on South Central Avenue. From there, police officers were able to communicate with the people inside the home, said Sgt. Chris Piombo.

Fakhouri watched from inside her house as SWAT team members with shields, helmets and large guns crouched behind her car.

Around 4:30 a.m., two people finally emerged from the home, and they were arrested on suspicion of resisting arrest, Barry said.

They were identified as 18-year-old Laura Barajas, who lives in the 404 E. Walnut St. home, and Stockton resident Veasna Lee Rath, also 18. Both were cited and released after questioning, Piombo said.

Police also arrested Philip Chhoeun, 18, on suspicion of disturbing the peace and challenging others to fight at the crime scene, said Sgt. Doug Chinn.

Officers stopped a car that may have been at the party resulted in the arrest of 19-year-old Chhayna Rath, of Stockton, who had an outstanding burglary warrant, Chinn said.

On Wednesday morning, evidence technicians set out yellow markers beside each bullet casing on the front lawn, and numerous markers noted drops of blood on the sidewalk.

A handgun was found near the scene of the crime, but it appeared that it had not been fired, according to Piombo.

Several Honda Accords, an Acura Integra with a radar detector in it and a Lexus were among the vehicles inside the crime scene that remained closed to traffic late Wednesday morning.

Police determined that the Acura, which was parked across the street, belonged to Do.

The car had two bullet holes in the driver's side door, but police did not believe they were from Tuesday's shooting, Piombo said.

A black Honda parked partially on the lawn and driveway of the house also had bullet holes above the right taillight, and investigators had found no paint chips that might indicate the bullet holes were new, said Detective Leo Ramirez.

Before investigators searched and towed several vehicles, including Do's Acura, Detective Dale Miller climbed a 100-foot ladder on the Lodi Fire Department's tiller truck to take photos of the crime scene from the air. The photos would help investigators remember the position of the vehicles and the scene, he said.

The shooting came nearly a year after the last homicide within city limits. On July 9, 2002, two men were found shot to death in their car parked near Wal-Mart, 2350 W. Kettleman Lane.

There have been no arrests in the deaths of Lodi residents Danny Stewart Rogers, 48, and Timothie Wayne Layton, 20, though police say they are still following leads.

In March, a Lodi couple were shot to death in their south-east Lodi home near Morada, and Sheriff's detectives arrested Joel Magana, 19, and Christopher Jones, 18, shortly after the homicides.

The two Lodi teens have pleaded innocent to the deaths of Kevin Dahnke, 23, and his wife, 24-year-old Sabrina Dahnke, and they will next appear in court July 21.

Anyone with information on Tuesday's shooting, or the whereabouts of Do, is asked to call the Lodi Police Department at 333-6727. Anonymous calls may be made to the Lodi-Area Crimestoppers at 333-6771.

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