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Longstanding War Over Turf Reflected in Sudden Violence

September 18, 1989|MARK LANDSBAUM | Times Staff Writer

It was a longstanding hatred between two barrio gangs that shattered a quiet Garden Grove neighborhood over the weekend, leaving a 17-year-old gang member and a 4-year-old child dead.

Saturday's drive-by shooting occurred barely within the Garden Grove city limits, but it involved two small Santa Ana-area gangs with a rivalry dating back decades, police and residents said. The shooting may have been a direct retaliation for another shooting earlier in the week, residents said.

Miguel Lorenzo Navarro, who died at the scene, 13882 La Bonita Ave., was a member of the 17th Street gang, whose membership numbers about 20, ranging in age from 12 to 30, residents and police said.

Garden Grove police believe that Navarro was killed by gunmen from the 5th Street gang, centered just to the southwest of the 17th Street gang's turf.

"Seventeenth and 5th (street gangs) are two of ours," Santa Ana Police Sgt. John Dittus said, adding that the 5th Street gang has been the more active.

The slaying came after "a moderate amount of gang activity, moderate to heavy" during the summer, Dittus said. But residents and gang experts said that until Saturday's violence, there had been relative calm between the two gangs.

The shootings also came on the eve of a meeting of Santa Ana Mayor Daniel H. Young, the city's anti-gang police detail and an anti-gang church leader with a plan for combating gang violence.

"They are really interested in getting more aggressive with the gang detail," said Pastor Bruce Bernal of Victory Outreach, a nondenominational Tustin-based church. "It's an escalating problem. Parents need to get involved, community leaders need to get involved."

Some former members of the 5th and 17th Street gangs are among the congregation of a church called Victory Outreach Orange County, which until just a month ago was at Euclid Avenue and Westminster Boulevard, around the corner from Saturday's double homicide.

"When we come into a community, things do calm down and you do see a change," Bernal said Sunday. "We were there 2 1/2 years, and there had been no activity between those two gangs."

According to former 17th Street gang member Frank Fernandez--whose son, Frank Jr., died in Saturday's attack--the warfare between the 17th Street and 5th Street gangs has gone on for so long that few of today's gang members know what started it.

Rivalry From Proximity

The rivalries stem largely from the gangs' proximity, he said. The 17th Street gang covers a Santa Ana-Garden Grove territory roughly bounded by Hazard and Trask avenues and Euclid and Newhope streets, Fernandez said. The 5th Street gang's territory, also within both city limits, is bounded by 1st Street, Euclid, Hazard and Ward Street, he said.

According to Fernandez and relatives, the 5th Street gang is notorious for its drive-by attacks. When he was a gang member five years ago, the rival gangs used to settle differences with fists instead of guns, he said.

But violence has escalated because of what Fernandez called the 5th Street gang's increased reliance upon retaliatory drive-by shootings.

"Both those gangs are not very big, compared to some of the gangs in Santa Ana and Orange County," Victory Outreach's Bernal said.

Authorities have identified 98 gangs in Orange County, 79% of them Latino, 19% black and the rest identified as Asian or skinheads. More than 7,000 gang members have been identified by the county's anti-gang unit operating out of the district attorney's office.

Bernal said that when he meets with Santa Ana officials today he will propose setting up a panel to study city schools and recreation centers in a bid to "identify the problems . . . and try to hook up parents and the kids back together.

"We may not have (a gang problem) as blunt or open as L.A. does, but we have an undercurrent that's been there for many years and needs to be addressed," Bernal said. "The gang members don't realize the consequences. They are never there at the conclusion of their shooting."

One person who lives near where Saturday's shooting erupted had worked for years trying to quell gang activity.

"This is very bad, a very sad day," she said Sunday, asking that her name not be disclosed. "I knew that little boy (Navarro) since he was in diapers. . . . I know the parents" of the 4-year-old victim.

Her own efforts to bring together neighborhood children and their parents in meetings stopped about a year and a half ago when she became ill and needed surgery.

Nevertheless, she said, the neighborhood had been relatively calm, except for a shooting in the spring that left one local youth partly paralyzed.

Saturday's shooting was thought to have been in retaliation for the shooting of a 5th Street gang member within the last two weeks, she and other residents said.

But, as is often the case, she said, "It was another gang that shot that other kid from 5th Street" and not a 17th Street gang member.

Despite her efforts to combat gang warfare, the latest shooting discouraged and frightened her.

"I have 12 grandkids, and I don't want my grandkids to come over," she said. "It's not safe. Parents have to wake up. They have to take a stand and say enough is enough.

"It has to be all the neighborhoods in Orange County."

MAIN STORY: Part I, Page 1

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