Tulare County Sheriff’s Top 10 Fugitive dies in Mexico

After ten years on the run, a suspect in a 2013 Woodlake gang skirmish has been found and killed in a shootout in Tijuana, Mexico

TULARE COUNTY – One of Woodlake’s biggest ongoing stories, spanning back a decade ago, has come to a close after a Tulare County Sheriff’s Top 10 Fugitive Martin Saldana was reported dead.

The news of Saldana’s death was announced on July 14 by the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO). According to TCSO, the shootout that killed Salanda took place in Tijuana, Mexico on June 28.

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Saladana was found in Mexico after being on the run since his release from a Tulare County hospital in 2013, where he was treated after being shot in the chest during a gang skirmish. He was able to avoid capture since he was released from the hospital and was not found until his death this year.

It was initially believed that Saldana was a victim of the shootout after being found in an alleyway behind Miller Brown (City) Park in Woodlake. While no weapons were recovered near him or at the scene of the crime, he was identified as a local gang member.

The actual shooting occurred near the 300 block of E. Antelope, in the backyard of a rival gang member’s house. Officers later discovered that Saldana, as well as Bobby Baker, a member of his gang, shot into the backyard around 12:30 a.m. on Feb. 2, 2013.

A year after the shootout, Baker was convicted on one count of second degree murder and one count of criminal gang conspiracy, as well as finding true other special allegations. These allegations included the crime of being the benefit of, or associated with, a criminal street gang. Baker received his sentencing on Jan. 30, 2015. According to legal documents, the court found Baker guilty, imposing an all encompassing sentence of 40 years to life for his crimes.

A trial revealed that, after Baker and Saldana had instigated the initial shootout in 2013, the owner of the home returned fire. Two men were shot during the skirmish, the first being Richard Zepeda, one of the five men in the backyard, who was hit in the head with a .22-caliber bullet.

Saldana’s rival members called 911 after the gunfire stopped and they found Zepeda motionless on the ground. Zepeda later died from the wound after being rushed to a nearby hospital.

The other injury occurred when the owner of the home fired at least two shots at Baker and Saldadna, who he saw running away after they ceased fire. According to court documents, the homeowner was not aware of either man’s identities.

Saldana was shot in the chest, which led to Baker calling 911 for medical help after Saldana fell during their escape. Baker then fled the scene, leaving Saldana to be found in the alleyway by the officers.

Now, 10 years after the initial incident, Saladana has finally been found. While details have yet to be revealed as of publication, the man was killed in a shootout south of the border.

Anyone with additional information is encouraged to contact the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office at 559-733-6218 or anonymously through the Sheriff’s TipNow Program at 559-725-4194 or [email protected].

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