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Two men have been charged for the mass shooting in San Joaquin Valley

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Local and federal law enforcement officers in California's San Joaquin Valley arrested two gang members suspected in the massacre of six people last month. The killings shook the small community of Goshen and surrounding areas in the Central Valley, and those killed included a grandmother, a teenage mother and her infant son. The execution-style attack was one of three mass shootings that occurred in the state within days of each other. From Goshen, NPR's Eric Westervelt reports.

ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: On Harvest Ave in Goshen, two bouquets of artificial flowers, a candle and a shot glass filled with coins are all that comprise a makeshift shrine below yellow crime scene tape that blocks off the small street where the massacre occurred.

CONNIE HERNANDEZ: It was just unbelievable. It's just so sad, so tragic.

WESTERVELT: That's 75-year-old Connie Hernandez, who's lived in Goshen for 50 years. Once a vital stop on the Central Pacific Railroad, the town of some 3,000 today consists of a handful of homes, some of them dilapidated, nestled between dusty industrial warehouses for trucking and agriculture. The town's framed by a rail yard to the east and Highway 99 to the west. Mrs. Hernandez knew the family that was killed, especially her friend, 72-year-old Rosie Parraz. They attended the same Catholic church here. The night of the murders, Connie Hernandez says she saw and heard the sheriff's cars on Rosie's block.

HERNANDEZ: I said, I wonder who it was - who it is. So I called her up, and she didn't answer. And I said, oh, no, I hope it's not her. I hope it's not her.

WESTERVELT: It was. The grandmother and great-grandmother was shot in the head, the sheriff said, kneeling by her bed. Following more than two weeks of near round-the-clock work by local and federal agents, including surveillance and testing of DNA evidence, Friday saw a break in the case. Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux.

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MIKE BOUDREAUX: I would like to announce the arrest of 35-year-old Angel Uriarte of Goshen and 25-year-old Noah Beard of Visalia.

WESTERVELT: Uriarte was wounded in the shootout with federal ATF agents and is in the hospital. Police say he's expected to recover. The county district attorney's office charged both suspects with six counts of murder and other felonies. At a press conference, the sheriff played chilling security camera video of 16-year-old Alissa Parraz trying to flee the carnage, carrying her 10-month-old son, Nycholas. The mom can be seen putting her baby over a metal fence and then trying to climb over to get to safety. Sheriff Boudreaux says both were shot in the head execution-style in the street a few feet from the fence.

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BOUDREAUX: This family was targeted by cold-blooded killers.

WESTERVELT: Two of the victims that night and the shooters, the sheriff says, are members of rival Sureno and Norteno drug and street gangs. Eight prison cells and multiple prisons were searched as part of the investigation. The two arrested Friday, he says, are alleged Norteno members.

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BOUDREAUX: The suspects and the victims have a long history of gang violence, heavily active in guns, gang violence, gun violence and narcotics dealings. However, having said that, the motive is not exactly clear at this point.

WESTERVELT: Alissa Parraz had just been awarded full custody of her infant son after he spent months in foster care. The two were reunited just three days before they were murdered. The sheriff and the local DA called for Governor Gavin Newsom to rethink his opposition to capital punishment in light of the Goshen killings. The Democrat imposed a state moratorium on the death penalty in 2019. Meantime, in Goshen, longtime resident Connie Hernandez says she's upset by what she sees as a splintering in what was once a tightknit community.

HERNANDEZ: It used to be that every Sunday we'd go to Mom's or Grandma's or the comadre and have coffee, and now it's - sometimes if you call each other once a month, that's a lot.

WESTERVELT: She calls the killings here a wake-up call for everyone.

HERNANDEZ: And the message is, you know, get right. Do good. Do good to people, to your neighbor. You know, sometimes we've lived here a long time, as long as we have, and the people that are across the tracks, we don't - we have no idea who they are. You know, we'll go to the store, and if I don't say hi, how are you, or good morning, they're just doing their own thing, living their own life.

WESTERVELT: So now, she says, we need to work to know one another again.

Eric Westervelt, NPR News, Goshen. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Westervelt is a San Francisco-based correspondent for NPR's National Desk. He has reported on major events for the network from wars and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa to historic wildfires and terrorist attacks in the U.S.