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Police Beef Up Patrols as Gang Feuds Intensify : Violence: The increased law-enforcement presence appears to be restoring calm after four separate incidents since March 7 occurred along a stretch of Del Mar Avenue.


SAN GABRIEL — A bloody feud between rival Latino gangs and a shootout between Asian gangs has prompted beefed-up police patrols in San Gabriel and increased police pressure on gang members.

Two people died and four were wounded in four separate incidents that began March 7 along a two-mile length of Del Mar Avenue. The north-south street stretches from Sangra gang territory near the village area in San Gabriel to rival Lomas gang territory in South San Gabriel.

"We're hoping to de-escalate the problem with extra-heavy patrols and a high profile in the community," San Gabriel Police Lt. Jim Goodman said.

The heavy police presence has apparently paid off. For the past week, calm returned to the largely residential area with its mix of about a dozen small businesses.

"It goes in phases," San Gabriel City Councilman Jim Castaneda said. "Some gang members are in prison and when they get out, they raise some havoc and it starts over again."

Although Goodman said he does not know what prompted the current feud between rival gangs, police believe it began on Sunday, March 7, in South San Gabriel in an unincorporated county area. There, Lomas gang member Salvador Lopez, 15, of Rosemead, was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting in front of his home in the 1600 block of Del Mar Avenue, a Los Angeles County sheriff's spokesman said.

Sheriff's deputies, who provide law enforcement for the area, have not made any arrests in that shooting.

Less than 12 hours later, Lomas gang members allegedly took their revenge, authorities said. At 1 p.m. the same day, nine youths playing basketball at McKinley Elementary School, a block east of Del Mar Avenue, were fired upon by one or two gun-wielding youths, Goodman said.

Three people were wounded. Two were taken to County-USC Medical Center: a 16-year-old hit in the back and leg and a 17-year-old hit multiple times in the chest. Meanwhile, a 16-year-old shot in the leg was treated and released from San Gabriel Valley Medical Center.

All three were associates of the Sangra gang, said Goodman, who declined to release their names.

Four days later, police arrested Santos Gonzales, 18, of South San Gabriel, an associate of the Lomas gang. Gonzales was arraigned Monday in Alhambra Municipal Court on charges of attempted murder, Goodman said. Weapons seized at Gonzales' home are being examined for links to the other shootings, the lieutenant said.

Despite Gonzales' arrest, the gang rivalry continued. That same day, two male Latinos driving in the 1600 or 1700 block of Del Mar Avenue at 7:30 p.m. rolled down their windows and opened fire on a 15-year-old boy from San Gabriel, who was hit in the left leg. The victim, whose name was not disclosed, was treated and released at San Gabriel Valley Medical Center, Goodman said.

Because the victim was a gang member and the shooting was a drive-by, police believe it was part of the Sangra-Lomas feud, Goodman said.

Meanwhile, Asian gang activity picked up at 8:30 p.m. the next day, Friday, March 12, at a pizza restaurant in the 200 block of West Valley Boulevard, where two groups of Asians began fighting. As one group fled in a Mazda sports car, shots rang out. The driver, hit by a bullet, passed out and the car struck a parked car.

The assailants ran to the car and shots were fired. The driver, John Luong, 16, of Alhambra, died of multiple gunshot wounds in the chest and back. No suspects have been arrested, police said.

For many San Gabriel residents, the wave of shootings recalls the death in 1989 of Sangra gang member Tony Ramirez, 21, whose murder prompted creation of the SCIP (San Gabriel Community Input of Parents) program. The group regularly meets with police to try to decrease gang activity in the city.

Castaneda said the group's work has helped keep gang violence down over the past four years. But the recent wave of violence caused many residents to phone expressing concern, the councilman said.

Helen Olivas, a San Gabriel native, said in her 49 years in the city, she has seen gang rivalry come and go. Sangra is merely the newest name for a gang that has been in existence for years, she said.

"One kid is hurt here, so they go back and hurt a Lomas member," she said. "We have always had this back and forth problem."

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