It’s been a year to the date since David Burkhart was alive. A son, brother, nephew and father whose only crime may have been a financial debt owed to a friend. The 17-year-old Merced resident was shot and killed in the early morning hours on March 9th, 2018. His mysterious death has haunted his family since they were notified that their son would never come home again. Adding to the mystery was the fact that the Merced PD did not release any public information regarding the shooting and neither the Merced Sunstar nor the Merced County Times report on the shooting.
On March 9, 2018 at approximately 1:18 AM a call was received at Merced PD Dispatch from a male subject stating that an accidental shooting had occurred on Shady Hollow Court in Merced, CA. The address given by the caller was apparently incorrect, which delayed the officer’s response. But one officer had a hunch that the shooting may have happened at a home he was familiar with at 1717 Shady Hollow Ct., the home of 22-year-old Andrew Masengale. A home the officer was familiar with because of the family’s alleged gang ties and criminal history in Merced.
The officer called back to dispatch notifying them of the incorrect address and that he was going to knock at the home he suspected. He also requested that dispatch continue to call the reporting party back to confirm the address of the shooting. A female answered this time and after hearing the officers’ knocking she let them into the home. There they found 17-year-old David Hunter Burkhart, the father of a one-year-old child, with at least one gunshot wound. When this story was original published on May 29th, 2018 the family had still not been informed by the police or the coroner if their minor son was DOA or if he was taken to a hospital and later died. They were also never informed of where on his body he was shot. They were told it was in the stomach, but were not sure. There had been rumors that David had been shot in the chest or abdomen.
What is even more unscrupulous behavior by the city of Merced is their forcing the 17-year-old’s mother to file a CPRA (California Public Records Act) just to get the basic information about her child’s death including the autopsy report. Information that is vital for any grieving family of a minor child whose been shot and killed. Finally, on October 11th, 2018, Linda Burkhart, the minor’s mother, received the report, which only fueled more questions than answers about the shooting death of David.
Although the report did confirm that David was still alive when he was transferred to Mercy Medical Center, the question of where he was shot and how many times is still quit confusing. And since he had been alive, the time the officer spent locating the correct home was the difference between life and death. Was the wrong address given in order to delay medical care or police response? Possibly giving others the chance to flee the residence?
The coroner’s report states several times (see photo 1A) that David was shot in the chest and abdomen area which would confirm he had been shot twice. The coroner’s own report states that David’s heart was perforated as well as David’s liver and stomach. That would indicate that David had indeed been shot twice since the bullet that perforated his heart exited his back. And Merced PD officer Fister (badge #253) states that David was staying overnight with another juvenile at the time of the shooting at 1:18 AM. But evidence, including a video from a neighbor’s surveillance camera, allegedly shows David was with Andrew Masengale who was 21-years-old the night of the shooting.
Who is Andrew Masengale? Andrew became locally known for his friendship with the former Merced County District Attorney’s son, Ethan Morse. Ethan had been accused of taking part in the drive-by shooting death of 18-year-old Bernabed Hernandez-Canela of Winton, CA. The shooting had occurred seconds after a backyard shooting took place at the same location in Atwater where Ethan, Andrew and several other youths had gathered on evening of Easter Sunday 2013 for a birthday party. Three teens were murdered along with two wounded.
Ethan allegedly drove his dad’s SUV with several friends to the party knowing one of them, a known gang member named Jacob Tellez, had a gun. Several witnesses inside the SUV with Ethan and Jacob reportedly told investigators that Ethan encouraged Jacob to shoot Bernabed as Bernabed was running away from the scene. But only one witness, Andrew Masengale, stated that he did not hear the same and that the weapon Jacob had was a different caliber than the weapons used to kill Bernabed. An accidental 911 phone call was placed the night of the shootings by Jacob’s phone and audio was recorded of Jacob allegedly discussing the murder. Sheriff’s deputies arrested Jacob and for whatever reason thought it was a good idea to release him to retrieve his illegal gun and return on his own with it back to the sheriff’s department, which of course the gang member never did. A year later a new detective looking into the case arrested Ethan and Jacob Tellez on murder charges.
The Judge Ronald Hanson, a close family friend of the DA’s who knew Ethan since he was a baby, refused to believe the several witnesses who came forward stating that Ethan did drive the vehicle and encouraged Jacob Tellez to shot Bernabed as he fled the scene. They also state they heard the weapons discharge. Yet the judge refused to believe the witnesses relying only on one witness, Andrew Masengale, during the preliminary hearing. Ethan was released from custody and later sued the County of Merced winning $498,300 from the taxpayers. Ethan was never found to be not guilty by a jury and could still be held accountable for the death of Bernabed if new evidence comes to light.
On the same date the hearing regarding Ethan’s lawsuit began on March 9th, 2018, David Burkhart lost his life and again Andrew Masengale was allegedly involved in a felony robbery. Why the Merced PD did not pursue all of the evidence leading to something more than just an accidental shooting is beyond all reason. Andrew was out on a $50,000 bond at the time for a felony robbery that occurred in September 2017. They could have legally revoked his bond. They could also have confiscated Andrew’s cell phone and subpoenaed his text messages. Yet the Merced PD seemed to go about the entire investigation as though they were trying to cover-up any involvement by Andrew. Could this be because Andrew would have turned and admitted to lying about Ethan and Jacob’s involvement in the 2013 murder?
Andrew was also arrested in after he allegedly beat his girlfriend in Turlock, CA after Andrew had been placed on unsupervised probation for the robbery, which was pled down to theft. Yet there was no probation violation-which could have led to multiple opportunities for Merced PD Detective Alvarez to do his job. Detective Alvarez seemed more content on withholding information about a minor’s death from that minor’s family. More content to smirk at this grieving family while they try to give him new information about their child’s death.
There have been conflicting stories and even new information regarding David’s death and yet Merced PD detective Alvarez has simply refused to follow-up on any of it. His lack of willingness to truly investigate the shooting death of David has left the case without resolve and a family left with more questions than answers knowing their son’s alleged killer still walks the streets today. Information including an alleged conversation heard between Ethan and his father where Ethan allegedly stated that David was shot over $300 he owed to Andrew. Text messages that were allegedly sent to David’s phone by Andrew demanding David get the money he owes Andrew. All of this information has been given to Merced PD detective Alvarez and has only fallen on his intentionally deaf ears. Why?
David was a troubled youth. This is something that the family does not deny, but does that mean his life is worth anything less? Is it okay for the police and sheriff’s department to excuse murder because of how the victim led their own life? When we as a society allow for these types of deaths to go unchallenged without due diligence and proper investigative work, are we not endorsing whole scale murder of people we feel are bad people?
The alleged gunman, 22-year-old Andrew Masengale, has his own checkered past and if proper investigative police work would have been done, it is almost certain the true facts of the case would have emerged and David’s family would have the peace they deserve in knowing the truth behind their son’s death. Whether it was an accidental shooting or cold-blooded murder they, at the very least, deserve to know the truth.
Another name has come to the forefront of David’s death, Nadine Fernandez. She was also alleged to be one of the last people to see David alive when she and an unknown accomplice allegedly picked up David and drove him to a house on 19th street where it is alleged that Andrew was summoned to come and get David. The family also alleges that Nadine may have an actual audio recording of David’s alleged murder.
Nadine was also in an incident that left David’s mother, father and 8 months pregnant daughter with multiple injuries on the evening of David’s death. According to Linda Burkhart an argument occurred with Nadine and Nadine allegedly injured Linda, her husband and their 8 month pregnant daughter. The family has been subpoenaed by the DA’s office and a criminal court case is pending against Nadine. Linda also stated that the information about the audio recording was given to detective Alvarez and he allegedly stated that he couldn’t speak to Nadine because she has a lawyer.
I contacted Merced PD Chief Goodwin and he stated that David’s case is still open because the coroner had not ruled that David’s death was due to an accidental shooting. He further stated that the Merced PD has been able to solve cold cases years after they occurred and he was confident that they would solve David’s case. “If anyone has any new information,” Chief Goodwin stated, “then please have them contact us immediately.”
I also reached out to the Merced County DA’s office for any information they may have, but typically the DA’s office would not have any information until the Merced PD sent them the charging documents. The DA’s office had not responded by the time of this writing.
This is not a story attacking all Merced PD officers and investigators. Most of the department is filled with great officers who work hard to keep the community safe. But there are a few who do condone criminal actions by the public for various reasons and those officers must be called out for those actions. Until then the good officers of the Merced PD are being lumped in with the few bad apples, which makes the entire department look as though it is corrupt and willing to cover up a murder among other crimes.
The Burkhart family just wants the truth in the death of their son. They want detective Alvarez to take the case seriously and to use every means at his disposal like subpoenaing text messages, which could shed light on exactly who was with their son at the time of his death and the unknown reason(s) why he was shot and killed. It could in fact be an accidental shooting, but with very little information and lackadaisical investigative efforts, the questions remain and a family is left to feel that they and their son are less than human beings deserving of justice.