After Oscar Mendez-Rodriguez was stabbed on Feb. 8 near the Winston-Salem Street School, police told the school that Mendez-Rodriguez had a suspected gang affiliation at the time, a school official said Tuesday.

Mendez-Rodriguez, 17, of Pleasant Street and two other boys, ages 14 and 15, were arrested Saturday and charged with murder in the shooting death of 5-year-old Alberto Rios Navarrette in the city’s southeastern section, Winston-Salem police said. Alberto died at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Officers went to the Cole Village Apartments at 5:20 p.m. Saturday on a report of a shooting. Officers found Alberto with a gunshot wound to the head. The child was in the apartment with his parents and his 3-year-old sister, police said. No one else was injured.

A bullet fired from a car traveling along Cole Ridge Road went through the apartment and struck the child, police said.

Police Lt. Gregory Dorn confirmed Monday that the shooting that killed Alberto was not random, but the child wasn’t the intended target. Investigators received information that a group of individuals was targeted, but police don’t know why.

Dorn didn’t elaborate on who was the target of the gunfire.

Back in February, Mendez-Rodriguez was attacked on his first day at the Winston-Salem Street School, said Mike Foster, the school’s executive director.

The school, which has about 50 students, is a private alternative high school that serves at-risk youth in the Winston-Salem area, according to its website.

“We made the decision that he would not be returning,” Foster said. “He was expelled from the program.”

Foster said that police told him that Mendez-Rodriguez had a suspected gang affiliation.

A police officer stated in a search warrant that four teenage suspected gang members chased Mendez-Rodriguez through the school’s parking lot to Crystal Towers, where Mendez-Rodriguez was stabbed and beaten several times by the suspects.

Mendez-Rodriguez was able to drive himself after the assault to the Downtown Health Plaza at 1200 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, police said. He was taken to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and subsequently recovered from his injuries.

Police looked for several suspects who ran from the scene of the stabbing.

Luis Antonio Meraz-Gonzalez, 18, of Starmount Drive and Alexander Gill-Noyola, 17, of 25th Street pleaded guilty May 22 to assault with a deadly inflicting serious injury in Forsyth Superior Court in connection with the attack on Mendez-Rodriguez, court records show.

Meraz-Gonzalez and Gill-Noyola were initially charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, inflicting serious injury, two arrest warrants say. Both of them were accused of repeatedly stabbing and kicking Mendez-Rodriguez, according to the warrants.

Judge Todd Burke sentenced Meraz-Gonzalez and Gill-Noyola to each serve 20 months to three years in prison, the records show.

At his court hearing, Meraz-Gonzalez told his attorney, Everrette Murphrey of Winston-Salem, that he wasn’t in a gang, Murphrey said Tuesday.

“The only thing I know is what he tells me,” Murphrey said.

Gill-Noyola didn’t say whether he was involved in a gang during his court hearing, said Benjamin Porter of Winston-Salem, Gill-Noyola’s attorney.

“He didn’t have anything to say about that,” Porter said of his client.

Investigators are uncertain whether the stabbing of Mendez-Rodriguez was related to his alleged role in Saturday’s shooting.

Mendez-Rodriguez was being held Tuesday in the Forsyth County Jail with no bond allowed, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office said.

The 14-year-old and the 15-year-old suspects also are being held in custody with no bonds allowed.

Anyone with information about the shooting can call Winston-Salem police at 336-773-7700 or Crime Stoppers at 336-727-2800 or its Spanish line at 336-728-3904. Crime Stoppers may also be contacted via “Crime Stoppers of Winston-Salem” on Facebook

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jhinton@wsjournal.com 336-727-7299 @jhintonWSJ

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