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Gunfire Rattles a Neighborhood

Police increase their patrols of a hilly Fullerton area after three shootings leave windows broken in nearby homes.

September 20, 2003|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

Police have stepped up patrols in an upscale Fullerton neighborhood that has been peppered with random gunfire in recent weeks, shattering nerves of residents.

No injuries have been reported, but bullets have penetrated walls and shattered windows of homes along a dark, rural road adjacent to Coyote Hills Golf Course that had long been a popular gathering area for couples seeking privacy.

"That whole area was a lovers lane," said Mayor Don Bankhead. "I have a feeling it's taken people a time to get used to the idea" that Fullerton police no longer tolerate loitering there.

About 200 residents attended a recent neighborhood meeting and told Bankhead and police about their anxieties over the shootings, which were reported Aug. 25, Aug. 28 and Sept. 8.

"Residents were extremely concerned and fearful," Bankhead said.

Five homes and one car were damaged by bullets, said police, who recovered .45-caliber bullets. But above the front door of one home, police found two rounds commonly used in an assault rifle, said Sgt. Ron Gillett, a police spokesman.

Police don't have any suspects or motives for the shootings. They have increased patrols near the golf course on Skyline, Ladera Vista and Vista Del Mar drives.

The neighborhood sits atop a hill with a sweeping view of northern Orange County. The road has no curbs or street lights.

Police have ruled out the possibility that a homeowner was targeted for retaliation from a disagreement, Gillett said.

"It appears to be random," he said. "We've found out from contacting people who use the area at night that many are not from Fullerton.

"They've been using the area as a place to hang out at night. And we want to get the word out, that that's not [legal] anymore."

In addition to increasing their patrols along the street, police are no longer tolerating illegal parking in the area, drinking and curfew violations, Gillett said.

It is illegal to park in the area from dusk to 6 a.m., but the city only recently erected signs informing the public.

The tract is near a popular wilderness area with hiking trails that is also the habitat for an endangered bird, the California gnatcatcher.

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