Moments after 23-year-old Oscar Valencia of Santa Rosa was shot in the head at the intersection of Cumberland Street and Homestead Lane early Saturday, a neighbor heard someone yell, "you better get the hell out of here."
The police were called to the disturbance at about 2:08 a.m. and quickly arrived at the southwest Santa Rosa neighborhood near Bellevue Avenue. Medical personnel arrived but Valencia had already died, police said.
Officers quickly obtained a crucial lead — that a white van had been seen fleeing the area — and alerted local law enforcement agencies.
Minutes later, California Highway Patrol officers spotted a vehicle matching the description of the van driving south on Highway 101 near Pepper Road.
The officers attempted to pull over the vehicle, but the driver did not stop. CHP officers pursued the van from Petaluma south on Highway 101 into Marin County, and deployed spike strips to stop it. As the vehicle slowed, the driver leapt out and ran across the freeway into a large field near St. Vincent Drive.
Law enforcement officers with the CHP, Marin County Sheriff's Office and Santa Rosa Police set up a perimeter. A search was conducted by K-9 units from the Santa Rosa and Novato departments, and the Sonoma County sheriff's helicopter was brought in to assist in the search.
Hours passed. Then at about 6:30 a.m., officers saw a man matching the suspect's description running across the freeway, stopping traffic. The suspect attempted to force his way into a vehicle that had stopped to avoid hitting him, police said. But officers were able to reach him on foot and take him into custody.
The suspect was identified as Latroy Clinton Sr., a 39-year-old Santa Rosa resident. He was booked into the Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of murder.
Later in the morning, CHP officers searching the route of the pursuit located a firearm believed to be the weapon used in the shooting, about 1,400 feet north of the Marinwood overcrossing.
On Saturday afternoon, at a home on the corner of Cumberland Street and Homestead Lane, people were moving things out of the house and into vehicles. When asked if they knew anything about what had happened that morning, a young man said, "No news here. Please go. It's bad enough as it is. You're making it a lot worse."
One neighbor, who asked that she not be identified, said she heard an "argument" about a half hour before the shot was fired. The argument woke her from her sleep and she then woke her husband.
"I tried to go back to sleep and that's when I heard the shot," she said. "Whoever did that, some other person said to that guy, &‘you better get the hell out of here.'"
Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Rainer Navarro said the confrontation did not appear to be gang related and that neither the victim nor the suspect appeared to know each other.
Investigators believe Valencia was visiting someone in the area and that he may have crossed paths with Clinton.
"There may have been some &‘mean mugging,' looking at each other and it grew from a verbal altercation," Navarro said.
Police are still investigating the motive for the shooting and ask that anyone who has information call Santa Rosa police detectives at 543-3590.