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Can their neighborhood be saved?
They say fatal shooting is just part of problems in Manteca subdivision
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A group of moms are demanding changes in their central east Manteca neighborhood after what happened to 11-year-old Hunter Davis and his sibling.  They want it cleaned up and they are looking to the Manteca Police and City of Manteca to make that happen.

Two flop houses – as they described them – are close to their homes with children running wild into the late hours of the night and early mornings. Gun shots often rattle their nerves. They perceive little police presence or response. As a result  Magna Terra residents in the neighborhood north and east of Doctors Hospital of Manteca are on edge after the shooting of two boys that left the 11-year-old dead.

They want the police to step up and stop the craziness.

Six women and a man — longtime neighborhood residents — met Friday morning in the living room of a modest, well-kept home in the center of the well established neighborhood where the streets were named after American astronauts more than 40 years ago.

The women – all moms with families of their own – are homemakers eager to keep their families safe,  telling much the same stories of the three boys who have become known as the “Vagabond Kids,” who they say were often turned out of their home in the 1200 block of Cooper Drive.

One of the women told of a relative of Hunter Davis who lived in a trailer behind the family home who had hit the boy in the head.  He came running down the street, however the police had stopped him and questioned as to why he was running away from someone. 

“He came to my house to tell me what happened and wanted to call his mom and dad in Fresno on my phone.  They were always out of town when Hunter would come by my house and ask for water,” she said.

“Early on, the kids were never homeless – they had a home, but no one was there for them,” one member of the group said.  

Hunter was a regular at the Coffee Clatch off the main lobby at Doctors Hospital where he would ask for free bags of chips and candy bars.  Asked why he wasn’t in school at Shasta Elementary, he would tell me he had no one to wake him up to get him there on time.  This happened numerous times.  

His favorite neighbor remembered when she baked brownies for the young lad after he recovered from an intensive care hospital stay.   He had been hit by a car one night while crossing Northwoods Avenue near Yosemite Avenue. He returned often to see if she was baking more goodies.  The mom, like several others, said she would often feed him.

“Hunter brought me a Mother’s Day present.  Thank you,” I said. “But don’t you want to give that to your mother.  He said no, that he wanted to give it to me.  His brother was standing next to him, saying, ‘but he stole it.’”

She added that Hunter would often come crying to her because he was often hit.  He was very smart, neighbors said, but was essentially left often by his parents to fend for himself.

 An older man and longtime resident who joined the group complained, “Police don’t do nothing.  When I asked what’s going on, they would say there was nothing they could do.  We people are tax payers and we need help. A guy who owns the other flop house told me he owns the police just after he had brandished a knife at me.”

He admitted telling the neighbor, that if he cut him, he would blow his head off.

He said he didn’t call police because, when he does, he says they never come.  

Of common concern among the group is that neighbors are now beginning to arm themselves out of fear.  The man said he knows of five friends who have recently bought pistols and there are others who won’t let their kids go out and play because they don’t feel it is a safe neighborhood for them.  They hear too much gunfire during the night, he stressed.

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As many as 20 people live in one home

The women said they all know of a second “flop house” where a resident had recently been released from prison after being jailed for copper wire thefts.  Chiming in – one after another – that they say they have witnessed as many as 20 people living in the single family residence where they contend  occupants regularly are seen smoking drugs in bongs in the driveway and in the open garage while small children are running around.

One nearby neighbor of the shooting victims’ family said she personally saw the boys eating “Xani Bars” comprised of Xanex along with marijuana and Jack Daniels some three months ago.  

The sixth Magna Terra mom warned that something terrible is going to happen in that second house, as bad as if not worse than the double shooting two weeks ago, if something isn’t done.  

She said what appears to be new stolen products can be seen in the garage when the door is open.  Police know of the house but can do little about finding any cache of stolen property, because there is rarely a victim in such cases who can come forward with serial numbers or proof of purchase receipts for the valuables in question.   All too often it is classified as a victimless crime due to the lack of proof of ownership.

Another mom said that in the spring of 2013, she saw Hunter running around in the cold without shoes – he was barefoot.  He helped himself to a pair of shoes from a woman’s porch.  She said, when she became aware of the theft, she went to his house and had his mom hold him while she took the shoes off his feet and returned them to the owner.

One neighbor added that Hunter was made to stand in front of the Chinese restaurant at Yosemite and Northwoods avenues as well as the nearby Dollar Store holding a cardboard sign asking for donations for his family.  The others supported her claim.

A friend spoke up and said she had witnessed the dad taking the boys down to the Shell gas station on Yosemite Avenue where they would beg for money as he sat back in a chair near the station and watch as they brought him the cash they had collected. 

“The boys would go to houses in the neighborhood at Christmas time and sing for money,” another of the moms related.  Neighbors would literally take care of the boys, buying them food and clothing that fit – nothing that could otherwise be resold for cash.

The older boy would mow lawns in the neighborhood and then go to McDonalds once he was paid and buy burgers and fries for himself and his brothers with the $10, they noted.

One of the women said that she can’t sleep at night and hears all the gunfire.   During the past year she told of seeing the three boys locked out of the house at 3 a.m. with Hunter hugging a blanket and a pillow crying. 

One common complaint about their neighborhood is that “kids dress in black and shoot their guns at night – they think it’s funny.” 

“Because I can’t sleep, I’m the watchdog of the neighborhood and I hear all the noises and see grocery carts with stolen goods being wheeled into the garages.”  She said she was one who had confronted the dad sitting outside the Shell station and asked him just what he was doing there while his kids were busy panhandling just a few yards away.

The parents had moved to Modesto after losing their house in the 1200 block of Cooper Drive and the boys would somehow make the trip up Highway 99 back to their old neighborhood where they knew they could find food and water and a place to sleep, they added. The women said the new owner of their house had to completely gut it before he could restore it to a livable state.

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More and more people fleeing neighborhood

As a collective group, the women and the one gentleman said they have been complaining to authorities for some four years about their situation in Magna Terra and nothing has been done to correct the problems around their homes where more and more neighbors are moving out.

“We have called the police over 50 times,” the male senior citizen in the group noted.  

One of those calls was made when the dad was allegedly angry with one of his boys and he “beat the heck out of him with his fists and kicked him – could have killed him – and the police never came,” the man claimed. 

While Child Protective Services (CPS) has reportedly been on the cases in their community, the group of moms doesn’t feel that agency has done nearly enough to curtail the abuse to the children they have personally kept watch over in recent years.

A seriously concerned longtime neighbor said, “If the kids had gone to foster care years ago this wouldn’t have taken Hunter’s life.”