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Suspect In Stockton Pastor Shooting Was Football Standout At Edison High School

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Nick Janes Nick Janes
Nick Janes joined KOVR/KMAX in December 2008 as a reporter. Nick...
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STOCKTON (CBS13) — The search is on for a high-school football star after a stray bullet struck a Stockton youth minister.

Keith Denegal Jr., 17, hasn’t been seen since being named a suspect in the May 6 shooting.

By all accounts, Denegal was a good kid from a solid family. He was a football star coming off of a second-team all-conference season as a junior at Edison High School.

“He was a great player and a great athlete; does whatever you ask of him,” his former coach, James Taylor, said.

Jesus Mendoza, 23, dreamed of being a pastor at the Stockton church where he met his wife and became a minister.

But in one seemingly random instant, Mendoza lost his life, and Denegal became a shooting suspect, much to Taylor’s disbelief.

“I don’t believe he would do something like that,” Taylor said.

Based on tips received after releasing surveillance video on May 9, Stockton Police have identified Denegal as one of two people seen shooting and running off.

Police say Mendoza wasn’t the intended target, but a stray bullet went through his windshield and killed him as he was driving home to his wife and baby daughter.

“Jesus was just a family man, a servant of God, so he didn’t deserve something like this,” said Pastor Ramon Leal.

Some are hoping police are looking for the wrong person. Taylor coached Denegal in high school, but started way back in Pop Warner when he was 6.

“Ever since he was a little boy, so I know him real well, so that doesn’t sound anything like him,” Taylor said.

He says Denegal’s parents didn’t just come to every game; they came to every practice.

But the young man whose former coach says was always smart enough to steer clear of the wrong crowd is nowhere to be found. And police warn he’s considered armed and dangerous.

Police don’t have an identification of a second suspected shooter in the video.

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