Family of S. Valley shooting victim speaking out

FRESNO, Calif.

Family members have identified the man as Michael Juarez.

Visalia Police say there were no signs of forced entry into the home so they're not sure if the victim willingly let the killer inside.

Investigators are leaving all possibilities on the table.

Family members say 23-year old Michael Juarez was found shot to death in his own home. They say his mother discovered him at around 8:45 Thursday night.

"She's taking it real hard - that's her son. She's taking it hard," Rick Flores, the victim's uncle, said.

Rick Flores says he's shocked his nephew's life was taken so tragically.

"He was a great kid, young man he was strong he was he had a lot of life in him. he was enthusiastic he was looking for work I mean there's so much good things to say," Flores said.

Visalia Police believe the victim was shot in the chest in his own home. Investigators are still looking into whether the city's first homicide of 2012 was gang-related.

"Even if for example if you are a validated gang member you can actually be an innocent victim of a crime. You know when we talk about gang crime we have to be very careful to determine whether the crime occurred that furthers the gang," Visalia Police Chief Colleen Mestas said.

Police say the case is not related to other shootings that have occurred so far this year, adding that despite recent crime, overall gang-related crimes are down in the city.

People who live near the crime scene say the shooting has frightened them.

"It's scary because it's my neighborhood this is where my kids are at. What if a bullet would have come this way?" neighbor Mary Esparza said.

Family members of Michael Juarez are hopeful police will find the killer.

"We're all hurting very bad all of us it's tragic sudden. I mean you never expect something like that to happen and just all of a sudden especially to a young man like him," Flores said.

Chief Colleen Mestas says her department is working towards starting up a brand new task force targeting gangs.

They're hoping they can be more proactive to stop some crimes before they happen.

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