In a wave of continuing street violence, two youths were shot in Santa Ana by drive-by gunmen over the weekend, and a man was shot on a city street early Monday by an assailant who fled on foot.
Santa Ana police have declined to say whether the two shootings are gang-related. But officers said earlier this summer that gangs have been involved in the rash of drive-by shootings--including five in a 16-day period last month--that have been plaguing the city.
In a report to the City Council on Monday, Police Chief Raymond C. Davis said there had been 12 gang-related shootings in June, and he noted that in some years gangs are involved in more than half of the city's homicide cases.
Davis expressed concern about the shooting but said that gang violence is anticipated by police departments in urban areas at the beginning of summer.
More Officers Assigned
Davis said Santa Ana police have expanded an existing anti-gang unit to combat the problem. Officers normally assigned to the SWAT/HYPES anti-narcotics squad were reassigned to the anti-gang program on June 29. But, Davis said, "This is a temporary, Band-Aid approach and I'm not sure how long we can keep it up."
Many gang shootings are difficult to solve because few people are willing to testify, thus creating a climate of fear that is difficult to ease, Davis said.
Moreover, he noted that many residents of gang areas have devised their own ways to cope with the violence. Some, Davis said, even resort to piling mattresses against the front walls and windows and sleeping on the floors in the back of their houses to avoid stray bullets from drive-by shootings.
The biggest danger in the recent shootings is a snowball effect, Davis said.
"Each gang shooting breeds another gang shooting," he said. To try to "keep a lid" on gang activity, Santa Ana uses a variety of strategies, including vehicle code violations, following up on unpaid tickets and citing gang members.
Councilman John Acosta said, "My concern is about innocent bystanders who become victims." He cited one June shooting in which a 10-year-old was cut down by a stray gang bullet.
"It's a never-ending thing until someone gets hurt. . . . I just think we need to do something if this is the pattern for this summer."
Efforts to combat gang violence are frequently stymied by parents of gang members who refuse to cooperate with police, Davis said. He noted that a sweep of arrests two years ago was met by a storm of complaints from parents.
"They don't seem to be upset that their child is in a gang, but they are when the police arrest them," he said. Santa Ana has as many as 25 gangs operating under such names as F-troop, Santa Nita and Lopers, Davis added.
The city's most recent drive-by shooting occurred at 10:35 p.m. Sunday in front of 635 E. Central Ave., where, police said, several people were standing outside. Lt. Mike Mitchell said a passing car fired several shots, hitting two of the people in front of the house.
One victim, said Mitchell, was a 15-year-old a who was struck in the upper right arm. The second victim was Henry Magana, 18, who was shot in the back. Both were taken to Coastal Communities Hospital in Santa Ana where they were reported in stable condition, Mitchell said.
The shooting was a grim rerun of a similar shooting two weeks ago in the same neighborhood. On June 19, a man and woman, both 19, were pelted by a shotgun blast from a passing car as they stood outside in the same block where the most recent shooting occurred.
The victims, Gilbert Rodillo of Santa Ana and Cindy Torres of Anaheim, were treated at a nearby hospital and released. Police on Monday declined to say whether the two shooting episodes in the same block were related.
In Monday's incident, Mario Delgado, 25, of Placentia was shot at 4:19 a.m. in front of 511 S. Magnolia Ave. by a man who ran off and has still not been identified, Mitchell said. Delgado, who suffered injuries in the arm, buttocks, stomach and groin, was taken to Western Medical Center where he was reported in stable condition, Mitchell said.