Family and friends hold out hope for Sammy Mercado

SANGER, Calif.

Early Sunday family and friends of Sammy Mercado got together for a prayer vigil. Mercado was last seen when he and his friends were trying to steal marijuana from a grow.

Family and friends of 16-year-old Sammy Mercado held hands on Sunday and prayed for his safe return.

Phillip Mercado, Sammy's father, is devastated but hopeful he'll reunite with his youngest son. "I don't know what to say, I don't have the words, it's killing me inside everyday, I wish I knew where he was."

Investigators say Sammy was last seen by two friends at this illegal marijuana grow more than a week ago. They were trying to steal from the farm when two armed men shot at them.

His friends got away but Sammy didn't.

"Please just let him come home. Call me ,call anybody, we'll pick him up," said Phillip Mercado.

Family said Sammy recently began to hang out with the wrong crowd. At Sunday's gathering they expressed their concerns to Mayor Joshua Mitchell. They say too many of Sanger's youth are at risk.

"As a community we need to show them a different way to look cool," said Sammy's cousin Desiree Mercado.

The mayor plans to hold meetings with the community to address the issue.

"If it can help a kid stay out of a gang, concentrate a little more on school, become a little bit more respectful to their parents as they learn discipline -- I think we are winners at the end of that," said Sanger Mayor Joshua Mitchell.

And that's the message Sammy's father is hoping to get across. "The kids out there that are watching me right now, listen to your parents they know what they are talking about and what happened to my son I don't want, I don't want to give that to anybody to happen to them."

The sheriff's department is looking for 21-year-old Ernie Chanmany of Fresno as a person of interest in the disappearance. Two pick-up trucks owned by members of his family were found abandoned. The trucks were believed to have been in the grow the day Mercado disappeared.

If you have any information that can help detectives, call the Fresno County Sheriff's Office.

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