6-year-old Salinas boy shot in head

March 24, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The killing of a 6-year-old Salinas boy Tuesday has stunned even the police. He was playing inside his house when a bullet came out of nowhere.

Azahel Cruz, an innocent child, was shot in the head. He was the random victim of a gang shooting and police are taking the incident personally. They say they have made no arrests and believe the shooting was gang-related. Neighbors say the primary gangs in the area are the Norteno and Surenos.

A stray bullet went right through a fence and into Azahel's home.

"We're dealing with a 6-year-old boy, totally innocent," said officer Lalo Villegas, as he described the shooting.

Numerous shots were fired just after 6 p.m. Tuesday night at a small neighborhood park on the east side of Salinas. Families and children were enjoying the warm evening.

"The sound, like a gun. It was so loud. Boom, boom, boom," recalled a man who lives right next to the park and witnessed what happened. "I saw these two Surenos running that side and five of them running this way," he said.

He says members of the Surenos gang were hanging around the park and they may have been the intended targets of the shooters who he says drove off in a car.

"We did detain five individuals and these individuals, we believe, were targeted gang members," Villegas said.

Azahel's father, Jose, told ABC7 that his son was in the kitchen, which faces a wooden fence. On the other side is the park. The kitchen door was wide open while Azahel played. The stray bullet struck the boy in the head. Another round pierced through the wall and shattered a living room mirror on the other side.

Life stopped for the Cruz family at 6:15 Tuesday evening. That night's meal was still on the stove. Jose Cruz could not stop staring at the shattered glass mirror and bullet holes.

On Wednesday, investigators went door-to-door in the neighborhood hoping witnesses would talk.

"This suspect or these suspects, you know they got no respect for life and people should understand that. People should step forward," Villegas said.

Police found a handgun near the park Tuesday night but they do not believe it was the weapon used in the shooting. There have been several shootings on the east side, but this was the first homicide in Salinas this year.

Officials say last year there were 29 homicides in the city and all of them were gang-related.

People can call the department's anonymous tip line at 831-775-4222 or text information to the text tip line with code "SPD831" to 847411.


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