Gang wars rise in SF Mission district

February 13, 2008 7:30:52 PM PST
Police in San Francisco are looking for two men who shot and killed a 21 year old security guard. The shooting happened Friday night in a neighborhood with a rising gang problem. However, police say this young man was not a gang member.

Jose Mendoza was only 21 but he had big dreams.

"He always saw himself as doing great things. He knew he was destined for something great," says Gisel Mendoza, sister.

By day, he was a student at a city college. He looked forward to going to San Francisco State next year and was a talented artist.

"He loved drawing and animation. He could do self portraits. He was good at that," says Gisel Mendoza.

At night, he worked as a security guard at a condominium complex in the city's northern waterfront. Residents loved him.

"He was always happy. He was always smiling. He was always in a good mood," says Pat Defrates, Condominum Complex Manager.

Those who lived there had great hopes the young man would make it.

"He was going to get a degree so that he could move up in the world. We were all pulling for him," says Defrates.

His sister says Mendoza had visited some friends just hours before the shooting.

They were talking and hanging out on South Van Ness and 25th Avenue, when a car pulled up. One of Mendoza's friends reportedly exchanged words with those inside the car.

"Next thing you know, shots were fired. I understand everyone ducked. He froze and he received three gunshots," says Gisel Mendoza.

The young man had no criminal record and was not a gang member. In fact, his sister says he went out of his way to avoid associating with them in a neighborhood with a rising gang problem.

"Its all around here. If you look young, if you look a certain way, always watching what you wear, how you look at people," says Gisel Mendoza.

Louis Camacho works with troubled youngsters in the Mission. He says young people in the Mission are targets because there just aren't enough safe places for them to hang out.

"They have to congregate in dark alleys, dark streets, and they are constantly being harassed. Basically, they're easy marks for any kind of criminal act against them," says Camacho.

Louis Camacho happened to be standing across the street when the shooting occurred on Friday. There were two other shootings early Saturday but were not fatal. Camacho believes both were retaliation hits triggered by Friday's shooting.