Santa Rosa Police field evidence technicians Adria Cooper, right, and Kristina Capeheart search for evidence as they investigate a fatal shooting that occurred in the early morning at Redwood Park Apartments in Santa Rosa, California on Tuesday, December 31, 2013. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

20-year-old fatally shot in west Santa Rosa

A 20-year-old man was shot and killed early Tuesday morning at a west Santa Rosa apartment complex after a dispute broke out at a party.

Police Sgt. Dave Linscomb identified the man as Damien Wadell Toney Jr., a Santa Rosa resident who may have only recently moved to town. He did not live at the apartment complex, Linscomb said. No suspects had been arrested as of late Tuesday, though police made one traffic stop Tuesday afternoon in Petaluma to question someone driving a car that matched one described by witnesses.

It was the third homicide of the year in Santa Rosa. In the other two, one in July and the other on Christmas Eve, suspects are facing murder charges in Sonoma County Superior Court.

In Tuesday's killing, Santa Rosa police responding to a report of shots fired around 2 a.m. found Toney lying on the ground near a parking area of the Redwood Park Apartments at 2001 Piner Road. He had been shot in the torso and arm, Linscomb said.

Paramedics treated the man at the scene and took him to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, where he died.

Witnesses told police that shots followed some sort of disturbance or dispute.

Tuesday morning, crime-scene technicians documented the location of beer cans and other items strewn about the lawn outside one of several two-story apartment buildings in the 156-unit complex.

"We believe that the victim was at a party in the complex prior to the shooting," Linscomb said. Police are investigating whether a dispute may have caused Toney to move closer to the parking lot, where his body was found.

Trish Newton lives next door to where the party took place. She said that when she left for work a little before midnight, a party was going on. At least six people were outside listening to music. She got back from work at 4 a.m., after the shooting had already occurred.

The couple who lives in in the apartment have a daughter, whose children play have played with Newton's children. They also have a son, around 19 years old, who Newton thinks hosted the party.

Toney may have a gang association, but it was too early to say whether that was a factor in his death, Linscomb said.

"At this time the dispute does not appear to have been drug-related," he said.

Investigators taped off a large area in front and behind the building where the shooting happened. A few articles of clothing remained on the lawn near a sidewalk leading to residents' parking spaces, presumably where medical personnel attended the victim.

Crime-scene techs photographed the location of empty Tecate beer cans and red plastic drink cups on the grass several yards away.

Beyond the back of the building, more than 100 feet away and around a corner, lay several other unopened Tecate cans dotting the lawn. A cardboard Tecate case sat atop a 6-foot-tall shrub behind a different apartment unit.

Several neighbors near the apartment said they didn't hear anything unusual overnight.

Kode Williamson, who moved into the complex with his wife just six days ago, lives just a few doors down. His wife called on her cell after she left for work Tuesday morning and noticed several police cars in the parking lot.

"She said, 'You know they have our whole complex taped off?'" he said, standing on the sidewalk watching crime-scene technicians document the shooting scene.

"I cannot believe this," he said. "This is crazy."

The couple recently moved from Utah and he said he had hoped it was a safe area.

Betty Tharp, who has lived for more than 10 years in a home adjacent to the apartment complex, said she also didn't hear anything out of the ordinary. She said the apartment dwellers aren't generally loud or disruptive.

Her backyard abuts the shooting scene.

"It's usually pretty quiet, just normal sounds like cars starting up or the garbage trucks," she said.

It is the second shooting in the complex. In October 2012, a man was shot in the stomach and seriously wounded in what police say was a parking-lot drug deal. Neither the victim nor the suspects had connections to the apartment complex, police said.

In addition to the three slayings is Santa Rosa, five others have been slain Sonoma County in three cases in 2013, including three men in a marijuana robbery in west Sonoma County in February and a woman who was allegedly stabbed by her mentally ill daughter. The cases do not include four instances of officer-involved fatal shootings. A homicide, by definition the killing of one person by another, is not necessarily a criminal act.

The three triple-murder suspects are pending trial, while the woman charged in her mother's death, Julia Franzen, has been declared mentally unfit for trial.

In the county's first homicide of the year, Sean Parker, 31, was found dead in the truck of an abandoned car on Jan. 14 near Sonoma State University. No suspects have been arrested in that case.

Sonoma County Sheriff's Lt. Carlos Basurto said detectives are working leads in the Parker slaying and are awaiting test results from the Department of Justice. He said there may be some gang implications in the Parker case, but like Tuesday's shooting, they may not have been the motive for the slaying.

Thus far, none of Sonoma County's six homicide cases (eight victims) in 2013 are considered gang-related.

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