Welcome back … not!
Two downtown shootings spook students
Students walking home after a night out with friends were greeted by an eerie sight—crimson footprints that stretched over several blocks of sidewalk through the heart of the south campus neighborhood, signs of a bloody shooting that had taken place just minutes before.
Brett de Avila, a Chico State student, was out partying when he tried to walk to his home at Fourth and Ivy streets around 2:30 Saturday morning (Jan. 22). He was stopped by police officers when he tried to cross the intersection at Fourth and Hazel streets.
“They were just rolling out the caution tape,” de Avila recalled. “They weren’t giving out a lot of information, but I could tell something really bad had happened. It looked like a murder scene.”
The Chico State junior decided to stay at a friend’s house, hoping to get details about what happened. The next morning, he walked home, retracing the bloody footprints that stretched along Fourth Street between Normal Avenue and Ivy Street.
“It was really gross, really creepy. The blood wasn’t even dry,” he said Monday afternoon, as he pointed to dark-red blood spatter still visible on the sidewalk. “You hear about crime here all the time—stabbings, shootings, things like that. But it was weird to actually see it.”
He had very nearly walked into a crime scene. Two people were shot in the vicinity of Fourth and Normal less than an hour earlier, and the police had cordoned off the site as well as the areas containing the trail of blood.
Sgt. Scott Franssen of the Chico Police Department, which is investigating the shootings, said investigators are still trying to piece together what happened.
According to witnesses, two men began to argue in the street outside a house party on Normal Avenue between Third and Fourth streets just before 2 a.m., which is when a 23-year-old black man received a gunshot wound. Nearby, a 19-year-old Hispanic man, who is believed to be uninvolved in the original confrontation, was shot in the leg.
Neither of the victims’ names has been released, but Chico police aren’t at liberty to say why, Franssen said.
The incident took place not far from the spot where 24-year-old Chad Keichler was shot and killed back in 2005 outside of the Normal Steet Bar (221 Normal Ave.). In this case, however, there’s no indication either victim was a patron of the local watering hole.
Jason Neagles, a 24-year-old Chico State graduate recently profiled in this paper after being assaulted on the same block, was leaving Normal Street Bar when he heard gunshots on the corner diagonally across from the bar.
“Girls started screaming, and I saw the guy go down,” he said, referring to the 19-year-old victim. “My buddy, an EMT, went to go apply pressure, and then the fire trucks arrived.”
Police believe the other victim, the injured 23-year-old, ran from the scene of the crime. It appears he ran down Fourth Street past Notre Dame School, creating the footprints and blood spatter de Avila retraced the next morning.
Chico police recovered a gun in a bush outside the school, but they have yet to determine who its owner is and whether it was used in either shooting.
De Avila noted that the footprints he saw were limited to the right foot, so the victim was likely shot on his right side. “The distance between each footprint was really far, so [the victim] was obviously running, but it’s hard to tell if he was chasing someone or being chased, or just running,” de Avila offered.
The wounded man eventually got inside a taxi and rode around town until the driver realized his passenger was seriously hurt and drove him to Enloe Medical Center. Gianni Caponera, owner of Liberty Cab Co., confirmed that a Liberty driver was involved, but declined to comment on the incident because the investigation is ongoing.
As of press time, police were unsure of anyone’s involvement in the shootings, but Franssen did note that the shooter or shooters were probably “in the crowd” that formed during the original altercation. No one has been arrested.
Witnesses haven’t been much help, either. Police tried to question a number of people after the incident, but most bystanders, as well as the victims, were uncooperative, Franssen said. He described some as “hostile.”
“The information that witnesses have given us is limited, at best,” he said.
Both victims are at Enloe Medical Center. The 23-year-old was listed in critical condition and the 19-year-old in stable condition as of Wednesday morning (Jan. 26), according to Franssen.
Police are waiting for witnesses to come forward. Franssen, a veteran officer, said he thinks some bystanders may be withholding pertinent information.
“We just want to talk to anyone who saw this incident occur,” he said. “For now, we’re still investigating every possibility.”