San Jose residents discuss gang violence


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"I want to live somewhere where you can wear what you want and no one can tell you anything," Lee Mathson Middle School eighth-grader Pedro Sanchez said.

Sanchez said the news about his classmates made him mad because they were innocent and did not deserve to be attacked.

Diana Mariquez, another eighth-grader, said she was shocked to hear that the 12-year-old boy in her physical education class had been shot.

The boy, who was shot in the head, remains in critical condition, and his 13-year-old friend who was stabbed is recovering at home. Both were attacked shortly before 10 p.m. on Oct. 31 in a parking lot at 2001 Story Road while they were trick-or-treating.

Police believe the attack was gang-related but said there is no indication the victims had any gang involvement.

Four teens have been arrested for the attack.

The suspects are Eduardo Cristobal aka "Pelon," 18, of Milpitas; Erik Diaz, 16; Hugo Torres aka "Sharky," 15; and Diego Gutierrez aka "Boogie," 16, all residents of San Jose.

Police said all four are believed to be members of the Sureno gang. The three juveniles are being charged as adults. All four face two counts of attempted murder and are scheduled to enter pleas on Thursday in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

Mariquez said she doesn't feel as safe now walking alone in the neighborhood. She and Sanchez decided to accompany their parents to the community meeting, hosted by Councilwoman Nora Campos.

"It was important to come because we got to learn how to be safer," Mariquez said.

At the meeting, the parents were divided into groups to brainstorm solutions and preventive measures to combat future gang attacks. A Spanish-speaking woman with two children suggested organizing more family events, enhancing supervision before and after school, and getting more parents involved.

"We need more information about what gangs are about, their colors, and what our kids are wearing that we do not know," she said through a translator.

Another parent suggested youth outreach programs. The meeting also provided a forum for people who are have found creative ways to combat gang violence.

Kris Crawford is the founder of Knock Out Dog Fighting, a program in which mixed martial arts fighters and professional athletes and pit bulls visit juvenile detention centers, schools and children's groups to teach kids about animal cruelty.

Beyond that, Crawford said, the program highlights resources and jobs available to kids through Mayor Chuck Reed's Gang Prevention Task Force. The athletes discuss concepts such as self-discipline and inner strength, Crawford said.

"We show them that you can overcome obstacles and become successful," Crawford said.

Lee Mathson principal Orlando Ramos praised the community and the Police Department's efforts, and his staff, who he said have raised $2,000 so far for the injured students. Ramos said a dance is in the works to raise more money for the victims.

"Tonight's message is that this is a very serious issue for the community," Campos said. "The community is coming together to build safety blocks for children in the community and in schools."

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