Marine’s parents meet Ceres police
CERES — Andres Raya’s parents prayed Tuesday morning in the liquor store parking lot where, 36 hours earlier, their Marine son shot and killed a police officer and wounded another.
A law enforcement spokesman said officer Sam Ryno’s condition had improved from critical to serious. Sgt. Howard Stevenson was the officer who was killed.
Tuesday night, more than 200 people gathered for a town hall meeting where Stanislaus County sheriff’s Lt. Bill Heyne said authorities had yet to establish a motive for Raya’s rampage, but added they do know “he wanted to die, he didn’t want to go back to Iraq.”
Because of rain, Raya’s parents decided not to walk from the liquor store to the alley where police shot and killed their 19-year-old son in an exchange of gunfire Sunday night.
From the liquor store, the family went to a meeting with Ceres police. Raya’s parents wanted to clear the air about their son’s alleged gang ties, said Rosie Alvarez, Raya’s cousin. And, Alvarez said, Raya’s parents wanted to “begin the healing process.”
Police declined to talk about the meeting. Alvarez described it as “emotional” and “tense” as both sides sought to understand why an Iraq war veteran would gun down police officers after apparently luring them to the liquor store.
It happened just after 8 p.m. Sunday in front of George’s Liquors on Caswell Avenue. Raya had asked liquor store employees to call police, saying someone had shot at him.
Surveillance video shows Raya pacing as he waited for police. He pulled a rifle from under his poncho and shot Ryno, then fired at Stevenson.
The slain officer was 39 and a 20-year veteran of the Ceres Police Department.
Ryno, 50, remained hospitalized at Memorial Medical Center in Modesto. Tuesday, he was talking to fellow police officers as well as family members.
Graffiti at crime scene
Tuesday morning, Raya’s family attended Mass before going to George’s Liquors and the next-door tire shop, still riddled with bullet holes.
Spray-painted graffiti, much of it anti-police, appeared on both businesses and the supermarket across the street overnight, said deputy Jason Woodman, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department.
“There will always be people who will take advantage of an opportunity to benefit themselves and there are always going to be people opposed to law enforcement,” Woodman said.
The Rev. Dean McFalls, who formerly served at St. Jude’s Catholic Church in Ceres and is a friend of the Raya family, called the graffiti “despicable” and said it devastated the family.
“It was really, really hard to see that,” said McFalls, who went to the liquor store parking lot with the family. “There is absolutely no excuse to do something like that.”
Much of the graffiti had been painted over by midday. Among the remaining graffiti was a statement that simply read: “RIP Andy,” the name Raya often was called by friends.
At the Police Department later that morning, a makeshift memorial grew as people dropped off flowers and photos of the two officers.
Alvarez, Raya’s cousin, said police suspected Raya had gang affiliations, based on his tattoos. She acknowledged that she had not seen the tattoos, but said other family members told her that the tattoos signified “Latino and Chicano pride.”
“It was a display of honor for our culture,” she said. “He was not a banger. That just wasn’t him.”
Raya’s parents said Monday that their son, when he came home for Christmas and New Year’s, indicated that he did not want to go back to Iraq.
He served there for seven months, returning to the states in September, according to his family. They said he served in Fallujah.
A family member who asked not to be identified said Raya’s parents never allowed guns in their home, so it was unlikely that Raya had owned the assault rifle used in the shooting for very long.
It was not a Marine-issued weapon, authorities said.
Raya used an SKS assault rifle, and it had been illegally modified with a detachable magazine, said Woodman.
He said investigators were trying to determine where Raya had obtained the weapon and could not rule out that he had an accomplice.
“We’re talking to people he knew, we’re talking about anything that turns up,” Woodman said. “But so far we don’t know much.”
In an e-mail, a man identifying himself as a Marine and longtime friend of Raya’s, said Raya could not have hidden the rifle at Camp Pendleton, because military police often do random checks of barracks.
The e-mailer, who asked not to be identified, said Raya served as a motor vehicle operator. And he seemed to change during his time in the Marines.
“Before he joined, he was very motivated,” the e-mail stated. “The first time I saw him back (from Iraq), he wasn’t so motivated. He cracked negative jokes about people who were serious. … He was negative towards the Marines. He still seemed like the same guy, he just had a hard time.”
Bee staff writer Joel Hood can be reached at 238-4574 or email@example.com.
AT A GLANCE
FLAGS LOWERED: Gov. Schwarzenegger on Tuesday ordered flags at the Capitol to be flown at half-staff in honor of Howard Stevenson, the Ceres police sergeant shot and killed in the line of duty Sunday night. “Law enforcement officers risk their lives on a daily basis to ensure our safety and wellbeing,” the governor said in a prepared statement. “The bravery in the line of duty that officer Stevenson exhibited will not be forgotten, and his courage, commitment and ultimate sacrifice to make California a safer place are deeply appreciated. Maria and I would like to send our condolences to the family and loved ones of officer Stevenson during this time of mourning.”
BLOOD DRIVE: The Ceres Police Department is urging people to donate blood in the name of officer Sam Ryno, who was wounded in the same gunfight that claimed Sg. Howard Stevenson’s life. An account is set up at Delta Blood Bank and people can donate at branches in Ceres, Modesto and Turlock. For more information, including hours, call 538-5990.
TRIBUTES: The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors opened its Tuesday morning meeting with a moment of silence for slain Ceres police Sgt. Howard Stevenson and wounded officer Sam Ryno. Tuesday night, just before adjourning the Modesto City Council meeting, Mayor Jim Ridenour asked everyone in the chamber to stand for a moment of silence in Stevenson’s memory. The Turlock City Council called for a moment of silence for Stevenson. Also, police Chaplain Richard Roberts, in giving the invocation that started the Turlock meeting, prayed for Stevenson and Ryno and the Ceres community.