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Police go on alert for outside gang members

Medford police believe the person responsible for the stabbing death of a 24-year-old Central Point man in a gang-related fight is in custody, but officers across the region remain on high alert for suspected gang activity.

No charges have been filed yet in the death of 24-year-old Marco Antonio Diaz, who died of stab wounds to his chest late Tuesday after a violent fight at an apartment complex in the 600 block of Beatty Street, nor in the assault of 18-year-old Lucas Benjamin Molina, who was hospitalized with stab wounds to his abdomen after the same fight.

However, police have arrested nine people on riot and disorderly conduct charges for their suspected roles in Tuesday's fight and vandalism at the same apartment complex on Wednesday night. Another man is in jail on probation violation charges after coming forward to talk to police after the fight.

"We think the murder suspect is in custody," Detective Sgt. Mike Budreau said, declining to name the suspect until charges are filed.

Police are still following leads in what Budreau called "clearly a gang-related homicide" and awaiting fingerprint and DNA analysis, he said.

They also are adding patrols and sharing concerns about additional gang members coming to the area in the wake of the slaying.

"We have heightened patrol officers' awareness across Southern Oregon and Northern California," Budreau said. "We have no tolerance for gang activity."

Beatty Street residents had seen possible signs of gang activity over the past several months, including graffiti and young men wearing gang colors and shouting slogans.

On Tuesday, there had been shouting and rocks thrown at passing cars, one neighbor said.

Just before 8 p.m. Tuesday, police were called to a violent confrontation in which groups of young men were attacking one another with baseball bats and tire chains. Diaz was found injured in a parking lot after others fled. He was taken to Rogue Valley Medical Center, where he died of his injuries. Molina was dropped off at Providence Medford Medical Center by another injured man, who fled without being treated.

Molina was released from the hospital Thursday and lodged in the Jackson County Jail on charges of riot, disorderly conduct and possession of methamphetamine.

On Thursday, police located another injured person, 14-year-old Mauricio Humberto Teran, who had a cut on his hand, at an apartment in the 1800 block of Crater Lake Avenue. They took him to the hospital for treatment, then lodged him in the county's juvenile detention center on riot and disorderly conduct charges.

Guibron Ramirez, 19, also suffered minor knife wounds that didn't need medical attention and was found by police on Wednesday, but wasn't arrested, police said in a news release.

Six others were arrested Wednesday after Beatty Street neighbors reported a group was smashing the windows of a car. They fled in a white Ford Explorer, but were stopped. A .38-caliber revolver was tossed from the Explorer, so all were charged with criminal mischief and weapons violations. Police then added riot and disorderly conduct charges against Omar Quinonez-Aispuro, 24, of Minden, Nev.; Filiberto Cazares, 18, no address listed; Sergio Meza, 18, of the 100 block of Dehague Street, Medford; Ramon Guadalupe Rodriguez, 20, of Coos Bay; Jose Salvador Banuelos, 19, of the 2400 block of Beall Lane, Central Point; and Zenaido Quinonez-Aispuro, of the 8200 block of 23rd Street, White City.

One additional teenager, Juan Gonzalez-Marquez, 14, was arrested this week on riot and disorderly conduct charges and lodged at the juvenile detention center.

Also in jail is 19-year-old Manuel Enrique Castillo, who lives at the apartment where the fight occurred. He contacted police Tuesday night after the melee and was jailed on a probation violation charge.

Budreau said investigators suspect that everyone involved in Tuesday's altercation lives in the Rogue Valley. The next night's incident involved people that police suspect came to the area as a result of the fatal fight.

"We could have gang members coming in from out of the area," Budreau said.

Police said they are boosting patrols and maintaining a zero-tolerance policy toward criminal activity from any groups, in an effort to stem possible acts of retribution.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail aburke@mailtribune.com.