One person was killed, two others were critically wounded and at least a dozen more were injured in an outbreak of apparently gang-related stabbings, shootings and beatings over the weekend at the High Desert Music Festival in the desert community of Adelanto, authorities said.
However, local police and servicemen from nearby George Air Force Base assigned to control the 35,000 concertgoers, who braved the heat and high winds at the free two-day outdoor festival, said most of the audience was well-behaved.
"It was pretty low-keyed," Adelanto Police Detective Les Follis said Sunday. "We had around five to 10 arrests in all, ranging from drunk in public to brandishing a weapon to the actual homicide."
No Drugs in Evidence
Follis said there were no visual signs of drug use at the festival, which ended Saturday night. The concert featured country and rock music from the 1950s and '60s and marked the largest event ever held in the desert community, situated about 65 miles northeast of Los Angeles near Victorville.
"We had a lot of people tell us that they couldn't even smell the odor of marijuana," Follis said.
Adelanto Police Chief John Morrissey said the violence was restricted to a segment of the audience that he suspected belonged to gangs, primarily from Baldwin Park.
"A lot of this was to be expected," said Morrissey, adding that "intelligence information" from outside law enforcement agencies alerted his officers to the threat of gang violence during the concert.
"There were numerous, numerous fights and a few stabbings. Some of them were pretty serious," Morrissey said. "One man had three very large wounds to the stomach. Another lady was stomped on pretty good."
The most serious incident occurred at 5:40 p.m. Saturday when three gunshots were fired during a performance by rock singer and guitarist Bo Diddley, killing Alfredo Ramirez, 22, of Baldwin Park, and critically injuring his brother, Elfrain Ramirez, 18, also of Baldwin Park.
John Louis Soliz, 22; Michael Castillo, 18, and Alex Barreto, also 18, all of Baldwin Park, were arrested on suspicion of murder and were being held without bail Sunday in the San Bernardino County Jail. Police had no specific motive for the shooting, which they said appeared to be gang related.
Morrissey said police recovered a .38-caliber handgun believed used in the shooting, which despite being witnessed by an off-duty police officer and photographed by a concertgoer, went unnoticed by most of the audience.
"My guys went in and effected the arrests very quickly and quietly," Morrissey said. "Most of the people at the concert had no idea what was going on. The bands were louder than the gunshots."
Emergency Room Busy
A nurse at nearby Victor Valley Community Hospital said the emergency room also treated two stabbing victims, 10 people injured in fights and four people who had overdosed on alcohol and the hallucinogenic drug PCP.
One stabbing victim taken to St. Mary's Hospital in Victorville was in critical condition Sunday but was expected to recover, according to a hospital spokeswoman. The family requested that his name not be disclosed, she said.
Follis said 45 Air Force servicemen were assigned to the concert along with 24 Adelanto police officers, two Montclair officers and one Pomona officer.
The festival, presented by Oasis Entertainment, was free and headlined country music stars Roy Clark, Bill Anderson and Dennis Weaver on Friday. In addition to Diddley, Saturday's lineup included '50s and '60s stars like The Righteous Brothers, Ben E. King, Martha Reeves, The Drifters, The Tokens, The Coasters and Little Anthony.
Oasis staged the show to promote the City of Adelanto and a newly proposed amusement park to be built on the concert site.