Click photo to enlarge
Police continued to investigate a slaying on the 1900 block of Tripoli Avenue in San Jose, Calif., on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 6, 2013. Police found the man, who appeared to be in his 30s, unconscious and by 8:05 a.m. he was pronounced dead at the scene, the city's first homcide of 2013. (Karl Mondon/Staff)

SAN JOSE -- Six days into 2013, San Jose marked its first homicide of the new year when a man was found shot Sunday in the front yard of a residence.

Police discovered the corpse, whose identity has not been released, after getting a call about 7:55 a.m. about a possible body at a house in the 1900 block of Tripoli Avenue in central San Jose in a neighborhood south of Story Road between McLaughlin Avenue and Highway 101.

But neighbors said the shooting occurred about 11 p.m. Saturday and that officers who responded shortly afterward and searched the area with flashlights apparently didn't notice the victim in the darkness and driving rain.

"We heard arguing in Spanish and two gunshots -- Boom! Boom!" said a boy who lives nearby, who like other neighbors asked not to be identified to avoid possible retaliation. "So we called the cops, and they arrived fairly quick. They said they looked around but didn't find anything."

Neighbors said they heard a car speeding away from the scene shortly after the gunshots.

No arrests have been made and police released no suspect information. Police had no comment about a possible motive for the killing of the man, who was pronounced dead at the scene at 8:05 a.m., said San Jose police Officer Albert Morales. The man, who appeared to be in his 30s, was shot at least once.

A woman who answered the phone at the one-story home on Tripoli Avenue that police had roped off as the crime scene said in Spanish that she is the slain man's mother-in-law but deferred comment to his widow, who was not available. Several cars were parked at the home, but the residents stayed inside Sunday afternoon.

Some residents from the home where the body was found were taken to the police station for questioning. They were not suspects. Police were hoping they could provide information about the killing.

A quiet family

It was not clear if the man lived at the house or what ties he may have had to the neighborhood. He appeared to be Hispanic, Morales said.

Neighbors said that while they didn't know the victim and his family personally, he didn't strike them as a troublemaker and they didn't recall disturbances at the home.

"They were a quiet family," one neighbor said.

This killing comes after a particularly bloody 2012 in San Jose with 46 homicides, the largest tally recorded in 20 years. Last year's slayings began five days into 2012 when Ricardo Lucas, 25, was shot to death in East San Jose.

The rising body count has played out amid a bitter battle between the city's police union and City Hall. Mayor Chuck Reed and his City Council allies last year led a voter-approved ballot measure to reduce pensions of cops and other city workers, citing costs that have more than tripled in a decade and devoured funds for staffing and services.

But officers have been leaving in droves, with their union leaders blaming pay and pension cuts for the exodus and rise in crime, forcing the city to scramble to hire new recruits.

"Another tragic loss of life as the new year begins is not a good harbinger of things to come in San Jose," said Jim Unland, president of the San Jose Police Officers' Association "Our thoughts are with the victim's family."

Mayor reassures

Mayor Chuck Reed, who was attending a swearing-in ceremony Sunday afternoon for newly elected Councilman Johnny Khamis, whom he had endorsed, agreed "it's a sad way to start the new year."

"We're all worried about the police staffing," Reed said. "That's why we're recruiting and hiring as fast as we can."

Reed added that reducing the homicide rate is the city's "top priority" and said "people can be assured the Police Department is working on it and doing their best even though they're understaffed."

But that wasn't too reassuring to neighbors of the Tripoli Avenue killing.

"I don't know what's going on in San Jose, why we're getting rid of cops when crime is going up," one young man said. "Nobody needs cops, until they need them."

Staff writer Joe Rodriguez contributed to this report. Contact Joshua Melvin at jmelvin@bayareanewsgroup.com or 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport. Contact John Woolfolk at jwoolfolk@mercurynews.com or 408-975-9346. Follow him at Twitter.com/johnwoolfolk1.