String of gang shootings claims 5

January 13, 2009 12:41:10 PM PST
A rash of violence in Salinas likely caused by a deep-seated rivalry between two gangs has resulted in the deaths of five city residents since Friday, police said Tuesday.

The most recent violence was reported Monday, when three people died and one was injured in three separate shootings, police Sgt. Don Cline said.

The day started with the fatal shooting of a 15-year-old boy around 9 a.m., police said.

Salinas resident Juan Jose Perez was walking north on Burke Street when he was approached by a male suspect who shot him with a handgun. Perez died at a hospital, police Sgt. Chris Lane said.

Later that day, Salinas resident James Lopez, 26, was driving on John Street near McGowan Drive around 2 p.m. when a light-green minivan pulled alongside his car, police said.

The people inside the minivan argued with Lopez, using gang-related language, Cline said. A person in the van then shot at Lopez and his passenger.

Lopez pulled his car into a driveway in the 1300 block of McGowen Drive, where residents and responding emergency personnel administered CPR, according to police.

Lopez was transported to Natividad Medical Center, where he died. Monday's third shooting happened around 7:20 p.m. near Mae Avenue and Cortez Street. Witnesses told police a vehicle was parked on Cortez Street when two suspects walked up and fired into the vehicle.

The driver and his passenger, 17-year-old Jose Guevarra, were transported to hospitals. Guevarra died and his passenger was listed today in serious condition, Cline said.

Investigators believe Monday's three shootings are the latest in a string of gang-related murders in the city since Friday, Cline said today.

Several other attempted murders have also been reported, according to police.

The first of the fatal shootings happened around 2:15 a.m. Friday, when Salinas resident Luis Fernando Rodriguez Garcia, 34, was shot in the 1100 block of Cortez Street, police said.

Two male suspects had approached the front door of Garcia's home and asked for someone by name when an argument broke out and one of the suspects shot Garcia in the head, police said.

Garcia was transported to a hospital and placed on life support before succumbing to his wound Sunday evening, according to the Police Department.

The second fatal shooting happened Saturday night.

Salinas resident Frankie Espinoza was shot around 10:20 p.m. as he was leaving a party in the 1200 block of Tampico Avenue.

Espinoza's friends tried to drive him to a hospital but collided with another vehicle near East Alvin Drive and Natividad Road, according to police.

Police responded to the crash and found Espinoza suffering from several gunshots wounds to his torso and hands. He was flown to a hospital where he died Sunday morning.

Police and city officials were scheduled to hold a news conference at 11 a.m. today to discuss the killings.

Cline said this is not the first wave of violence to hit the city but that the number of killings in such a short time frame is worrisome.

"We have had spikes in violence historically," he said. "The spikes in violence are not uncommon. It's driven by gang mentality and gang violence."

"This has been a multi-generational rivalry between Nortenos and Surenos and this is probably classic violence between the two gangs," Cline said.

Anyone with information on the shootings is asked to contact investigations at (831) 758-7226 or the crime tip line at (831) 775-4222.


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