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2 Die in Suspected Gang Shootings

Deaths come as midyear report notes a 22.8% rise in San Bernardino's violent crime.

October 17, 2003|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

Hours after a new state crime report showed a recent jump in violent crime in San Bernardino, two people were shot to death late Wednesday in the Highland-Guthrie area of the city in what police believe was a gang-related attack.

One victim may have been a bystander who was slain after witnessing the first killing, police said.

News of the slayings struck another solemn note after the state's new midyear crime statistics showed that San Bernardino had experienced a 22.8% increase in violent crimes and 29% increase in property crimes.

"We're looking at these [killings] as gang/narcotics-related homicides," said San Bernardino Police Sgt. Brian Boom, who heads the department's homicide division.

Police responded to a report of gunfire at 11:17 p.m., approaching an alley behind an apartment complex in the 2000 block of East Sunrise. There, they found a resident, Daniel Ray Perez, 17, dead in the complex's laundry room with a gunshot to his head.

In the alley, neighbors tended to Malachi Wise, 21, who had been shot several times in the upper torso. Wise was taken to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 12:09 a.m, police said.

"[Perez] seems to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time," Boom said. "It appears the suspects responsible for killing Wise, while walking him to the rear of the apartments, must have believed [Perez] had seen too much, so they shot and killed him."

Investigators believe Wise may have been killed for encroaching on a local street gang's turf, since he was a member of a Palmdale-based gang.

The two assailants were described as muscular black men, and one was wearing a gray jersey with the words "Players 69" in blue. Police say they were seen driving a white, 1970s large sedan, possibly a Cadillac or Buick.

"We get a big influx of transitory gang members, coming here from Pomona, Los Angeles, Lancaster to visit their friends and family," Boom said. "While you see a lot of gang shootings in Los Angeles based on confrontations that start with, 'Hey, you're in our neighborhood,' here, it's, 'Hey, you're in our city.' The gang members here don't want others coming in taking their business."

On Thursday, Wise's mother disputed that her son was involved in gangs or drugs. Mary Wise, who lives in Palmdale, said her son was a Quartz Hill High School graduate who lived with her and had nine brothers and sisters. She said he had worked construction but was currently unemployed.

Wise had driven some friends home to San Bernardino on Wednesday and decided to remain overnight when his 1994 Chevrolet Impala had engine trouble, his mother said.

She said her son placed a cellular phone call to his girlfriend in the Antelope Valley late Wednesday night, telling her he needed to walk outside "to get a breath of fresh air." He was shot a short time later.

"They didn't have to gun him down like that," Wise's mother said. "I know there's speculation of drugs because of the area he was in, but that's not an area he should have been in. He was only taking his friend home. He never knew those guys who killed him.... Had he not walked outside, he would not be dead."

To combat the city's gang problem, police officials conducted a gang injunction program this year, issuing search warrants at troubled areas that netted an estimated 40 arrests, helped dismantle one gang's hierarchy and resulted in the confiscation of 16 guns and 7 pounds of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine.

The department has implemented zero-tolerance searches of gang members on probation and plans to reconfigure beats to increase deployment in the most dangerous areas.

"We want to be a thorn in those guys' sides," Boom said. "The easiest answer is more police, but no one wants higher taxes to pay for those officers. We'd like to think we're making a difference, but you'll never know how many murders you've prevented."

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