Two killed over weekend

Two young men were killed over the weekend in separate violent incidents in Chico, and police say they are not sure what the motivation was for either homicide.

The first incident occurred Monday morning, about 10 minutes before closing time at Normal Street Bar, a popular student hangout at the corner of Normal and Third streets. According to Chico Police Sgt. Dave Barrow, the victim, Chad Keichler, 24, and the suspect, William Schmitz, 23, were acquaintances and had been drinking together prior to the shooting.

“The know each other, they had been in there drinking and stuff together. There was a little bit of ribbing going on inside … then when it went outside it got more serious. But we’re talking about [a] verbal [exchange]. We didn’t have a physical altercation.”

Barrow said there were a few more people involved in the altercation, some of whom became witnesses to the shooting. Barrow said police had not determined what the two men were fighting about, but whatever it was, it allegedly prompted Schmitz to shoot Keichler at close range with a small-caliber handgun.

“This thing looked like it was over. Bar personnel were out there and things were pretty much broken up, when all the sudden the suspect walks up and shoots the guy,” Barrow said.

Witnesses told police Schmitz walked over to a black Dodge Durango SUV and come back with the weapon in his hand, shooting Keichler just underneath the chin with the gun pointed upward. As the crowd scattered, the suspect fled in the Durango, Barrow said. Keichler was pronounced dead at the scene. The murder weapon has yet to be recovered.

“There is an abundance of witnesses that knew the suspect, knew the victim, and also witnesses that didn’t know them but also witnessed what happened. It’s just a matter now [of] trying to figure out a motive, because right now we don’t have one,” Barrow said.

A candlelight vigil was held in honor of the victim Monday night in front of the bar, with relatives and friends gathering to mourn Keichler.

One such friend was Todd Sanders, who worked with Keichler at LaSalle’s, another Chico watering hole popular with college students.

“Chad was just a warmhearted, caring, compassionate person,” Sanders said. Keichler had worked for LaSalle’s for about 18 months, but Sanders said he’s known Keichler for longer than that. Court records show Keichler has been in trouble with the law, dating back to an incident in July 2001, when he was arrested for assaulting three Hmong men. Convicted of battery and committing a hate crime, Keichler was ordered to serve 240 days and pay almost $10,000 in medical and court costs. Keichler was also on probation for driving under the influence.

“It was a pretty big burden on him, and it was frustrating him. It taxed his mind quite a bit,” Sanders said about Keichler’s legal troubles. He also noted that while Keichler was not the type to start fights, he didn’t run from them.

“He was one of those people who, when confronted, he just wouldn’t back down. He stood up for what he believed in and really stayed true to his convictions.”

The suspect, Schmitz, was arrested Monday morning around 10 a.m. at a relative’s house in Roseville, where a tipster told Chico police he might be found. He has so far refused to talk about the incident, invoking his Fifth Amendment rights. An arraignment will likely be held today.

The other lethal altercation occurred at the Union 76 station on Eighth and Bartlett streets at around 2 a.m. Sunday. In that incident, Bryan Semore, 18, a recent Oroville High grad and homecoming king, was stabbed to death by unknown assailants after he and a friend became involved in a fight at the gas station. Semore’s friend, also from Oroville, whose name was not released, was stabbed as well. He was treated and released from Enloe Medical Center. Police do not know what the fight was over and are searching for two or three suspects described only as “Hispanic males.”

Barrow said it is becoming increasingly common in Chico for fights to escalate directly from verbal arguments into fights involving weapons.

“You don’t go to a fistfight anymore. Too many times someone’s going to pull out a knife or someone’s going to pull out a gun,” Barrow said. “I think you must be out of your head to mix it up with somebody you don’t know … because there’s a likelihood that person’s going to pull out a weapon. It’s surprising how many people out there are carrying firearms.”