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Police Seek Murder Suspects
Detectives investigating the killing of a young Riverbank man outside a mini-mart in the early morning hours on Thursday, Aug. 5 identified two out of three suspects by the next day but reported no arrests as of late Monday afternoon.

They identified the suspects as Daniel Pantoja, 18, of Riverbank and a 14-year-old Turlock boy. The Riverbank News is withholding the younger boy's name and photograph because he is a juvenile.

The Sheriff's Department is asking for the public's help in finding them but warned they are considered armed and dangerous.

The victim, Chaz Bettencourt, 21 reportedly had gotten a lift with a friend to get a soda from the mini-market on the southwest corner of Oakdale and Patterson roads when he became involved in an argument with three suspects outside the store and was shot and killed.

Stanislaus County sheriffs were dispatched to the scene at 12:40 a.m. to investigate "an altercation" and found Bettencourt outside the store suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He was transported to a Modesto hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Bettencourt and his friend were walking out of the store when they were confronted by the three suspects, who reportedly wanted their car keys. An argument ensued and the friend ran back into the store to ask the clerk to call police when several shots were fired in the parking lot.

Deputies investigating the scene and interviewing the few witnesses viewed the mini-mart's security surveillance footage.

"It's truly disturbing to see how these suspects attacked the victim like a pack of wolves," said Lt. Mick Hardenbrook, who heads the Sheriff's Department homicide unit. "It's easy to see how anybody could have fallen victim to these murderers."

Investigators have determined assailants fled the area on foot and do not believe the incident was "gang related" but the suspects are gang affiliated. They also have information the suspects were carrying more than one firearm at the time of the deadly assault.

Sheriff's deputies called out the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team to help search the suspects' homes in the 600 block of Columbia Street in Turlock and in the 3800 block of Stanislaus Street in Riverbank Thursday evening.

"This is a terrible tragedy," City Manager Rich Holmer commented. "Our condolences go out to the young man's family."

Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to contact Detective McQueary at 209-525-7099. Callers can also leave an anonymous tip by calling Crime Stoppers at 209-521-4636. Tipsters can also e-mail tips to Stoppers or text them to CRIMES (274637) by typing "Tip704"plus a message. Tipsters are eligible for a cash reward.