Star Athlete Behind Bars for Allegedly Killing Minister

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STOCKTON—

A seventeen-year-old track and football star accused of killing a Stockton minister is now behind bars.

Stockton Police say Keith Denegal Junior turned himself in with a lawyer on Tuesday.

Investigators say he is responsible for killing 23-year-old Jesus Villegas Mendoza.

The pastor of Mendoza’s church, Ramon Leal, is relieved that an arrest has been made, but his heart still aches.

“I’m still sad. I still cry when I see the videos. So I don’t know. I don’t know how long it will take,” said Leal.

Mendoza was killed in May on Main Street in Stockton, police say. Denegal shot into traffic in broad daylight and a bullet hit the pastor.

“What our victim was doing, was what most of us do when we leave work; we go home to be with our family. All he was doing was driving down east Main Street when he was hit by a stray bullet,” said Officer Joe Silva with Stockton Police.

Detectives say they identified Denegal through surveillance video, taken moments after the shooting. It shows several suspects shooting across the street on Main Street, then running from the scene around the time Mendoza was killed.

Police issued a warrant for Denegal’s arrest about a week after the shooting.

Denegal is now in juvenile hall.

Leal says he also feels for the teen’s family. They too will have to deal with the pain of being separated from their child.

“Saddened to know that it wasn’t just Jesse, but another mother who is also losing her child, which is Keith,” said Leal.

Denegal will be tried as an adult, according to the district attorneys office.

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