This article has been updated to include information about the second victim.
Two grooms were shot and seriously injured early Thursday morning at Murieta Equestrian Center in Rancho Murieta, California, after an apparent altercation following an impromptu Wednesday evening soccer game involving a group of grooms and exhibitors that took place in a covered arena near the stabling area of the facility, which is currently hosting the Sacramento International Horse Show.
One of the shooting victims had to be air-evacuated from the equestrian center and both were in critical condition after the shooting, according to a news report from CBS Sacramento.
A GoFundMe started Thursday identified one victim as Ricardo Mendoza, 21.
“Ricardo is a valuable member of our community and was the victim of a senseless shooting at the Sac International horse show,” organizer Lily Berlin, a California-based adult amateur rider, wrote on the fundraiser page. “He is undergoing extensive medical treatment for his injuries and has had two emergency surgeries today to deal with two gunshot wounds to his face and neck. He is in critical condition in the surgery ICU at leading trauma center. As his brother, Victor Jr., said today, ‘It is a “sueño malo”—a bad dream.’ “
The second victim, Martin Cazares, was shot in the shoulder and is in better condition today, said Dale Harvey, CEO of West Palms Events, which organizes the show. Lisa Durbrow and Cyd Shald, trainers at Longview Stables where Cazares has worked for 12 years, started a GoFundMe for Cazares.
According to Kristin Hardin, a friend of Durbrow and Shald, Cazares is still in the hospital, though he’s out of the ICU.
“He has three young children at home, and we know that all donations will help during this time of need,” they wrote on the fundraiser page.
Berlin, who set up the fundraiser for Mendoza, said he freelances and works for different trainers at different shows, rather than being employed by one specific barn. He comes from a family of professional grooms—both his father and uncle are international grooms—and she has known him since 2016, when she hired his uncle to work for her on the Thermal (California) circuit.
“He’s a really good kid,” said Berlin, who was one of the first people on the scene and has been at the hospital with Mendoza since the shooting. Doctors and surgeons made it clear, she said, that the shooter was trying to kill him.
That shooter is still on the loose, Harvey said. The suspect “apparently is not working at this horse show, as far as I can determine, and he came in—somebody obviously invited him to come and participate in the soccer game; I’m trying to get to bottom of who that might have been—he came in, and there was some kind of altercation or dispute involving the soccer game, and the guy left and came back at 2:20 a.m.”
The two-week Sacramento International Horse Show is one of Murieta Equestrian Center’s biggest events of the year, Harvey said, with 600 horses on grounds and a sellout crowd of 3,000 expected for Saturday evening’s marquee event, the $200,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Sacramento.
“This is a big weekend for us traditionally, and we have a huge public that comes to this event, so we typically have a lot of security for this event anyway, but because of this it has been enhanced,” Harvey said, noting that police do not believe there is any public threat from what appeared to be a personal altercation.
Sacramento International Horse Show manager Caroline Jones issued a statement Thursday condemning the violence and saying that no one involved in the incident were employees of the equestrian center or the horse show.
“We are deeply disappointed and saddened that something like this would happen at our facility and want to underscore that there is absolutely no place for this type of lawlessness and criminal behavior,” the statement read. “We are grateful to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office for their swift response and extend our deepest concerns to all who were involved in this incident.”