Allegations of 'snitching' sparked fatal February shootout, cops say

Published: Saturday, Apr. 27, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Sunday, Apr. 28, 2013 - 12:02 pm

A February shootout in Meadowview that left one man dead, another injured and a third in custody was prompted by allegations of snitching, according to Sacramento police.

Early in the investigation into the Feb. 26 morning melee, police said they knew only that the homicide victim had gone to a home on Reel Circle, possibly with a companion, and that an argument ensued.

By the end, 20-year-old Joseph McDowell had been fatally shot and the homeowner injured, though his wounds were not life-threatening.

Upon further investigation, Sacramento police learned that McDowell went to Reel Circle to clear his name: Word on the street was that McDowell was a snitch, and McDowell believed the homeowner was responsible for the talk, said Officer Michele Gigante, a police spokeswoman. Along for the ride was 21-year-old El-Sharrieff Felix.

At the home, McDowell allegedly took out a gun and fired off a round, which prompted the resident to return fire, Gigante said. Felix also fired a gun, striking the resident, according to the criminal complaint later filed by the District Attorney's Office against him.

McDowell collapsed around the corner on Detroit Boulevard and was pronounced dead at the scene. The resident was treated at a local hospital.

That resident, in his 20s, has not been arrested and is regarded by police as the victim in the exchange, Gigante said. The Bee is not naming him because he is a victim of a crime and because he has not been arrested.

Detectives later arrested Felix on suspicion of attempted murder and possessing a firearm as a felon, according to jail booking records. He has been arraigned on the charges and is scheduled to appear in court May 2.

Felix's status as a felon appears to stem from a 2010 conviction for felony drug possession for sales, according to Sacramento Superior Court records available online. He was sentenced to 32 months in prison as a result.

It's not clear whether McDowell ever gave information to or cooperated with law enforcement – actions that usually prompt the "snitch" label – nor is it clear whether the resident contributed to the talk on the street. Police declined to discuss the matter further.

The case offers some insight into the stigma associated in some communities with aiding police, and the fear some feel about being labeled a "snitch."

Officer Doug Morse, a police spokesman, said people have a "social responsibility" to give information to police when it can help solve crimes and bring justice to victims.

He said those in his agency recognize that they have a responsibility to protect those who do cooperate, as well as address any intimidation that arises.

"The Police Department takes any threat to a witness or victim extremely seriously and has a zero tolerance for this type of behavior," he said.

Call The Bee's Kim Minugh, (916) 321-1038. Follow her on Twitter @kim_minugh.

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