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Sunday, 19 June 2011

East Palo Alto police chief declares war on street gangs in wake of shooting that left infant dead


09:20 |

East Palo Alto police Chief Ron Davis put the Norteno and Sureno street gangs on notice Friday: he's holding both of them responsible for the slaying of 3-month-old Izack Jesus Jimenez Garcia and making it his top priority to shut them down.
"If we are to protect our children and community from this type of violence and achieve true justice for the Garcia family, the accountability for the murder of baby Izack Garcia must extend beyond the two killers," Davis wrote in a letter to the community posted on the police department's website. "Our response to this tragedy must result in nothing less than the full dismantling of the Norteno and Sureno gangs in East Palo Alto."
According to police, Izack Jesus and his family were the unintended targets of a payback shooting on June 5. One of the alleged gunman, 17-year-old Fabian Zaragoza, opened fire on the family's car because he thought it was carrying Sureno gang members who had beaten him up on May 31.
A bullet hit the Redwood City infant in the head as his mother, Ivonne Garcia Lopez, tried to shield him and his 4-year-old brother, who escaped injury. Garcia Lopez was also shot in the leg and her husband Oscar Jimenez in the arm as they left a baby shower on the 400 block of Windsor Drive at 1 o'clock in the morning.
Zaragoza has been charged with murder, and a 16-year-old arrested on suspicion of a weapons violation remains a "prime suspect," Davis said.
"We cannot as a community

accept just the heinous nature of a crime where there's an environment where someone feels comfortable firing 15 bullets into a car at a baby shower," Davis told The Daily News in a phone interview Friday.
As part of the gang crackdown, the police department's violence interdiction team will keep working with the San Mateo County probation and California parole departments to visit homes and search all Norteno and Sureno members on probation or parole. Within the next two weeks, police will also meet with county, state and federal agencies.
"The purpose of this meeting is to share intelligence about these two gangs and develop a comprehensive and coordinated enforcement action plan that will disrupt their illegal activities," Davis said in his letter.
He told The Daily News it's "not necessarily going to be one event" that will dismantle the gangs, but continuous pressure. It wouldn't be the first time Davis has made busting a gang a top priority. In 2006, the police department took on the Sacramento Street gang after Officer Richard May was gunned down in the line of duty.
In addition to stepped up enforcement, Davis said he hopes the city can combat gang violence by providing services and assistance to those who want to leave gang life behind.
"If you don't want to be under surveillance 24 hours a day, then we have community support services. ... and we prefer that you do that," he said.
Although the Norteno and Sureno street gangs have long feuded with one another, Davis is hopeful a truce can be brokered through Operation Ceasefire, a grant-funded initiative launched last year to target gangs. It brings gang members face-to-face with community leaders and law enforcement, and provides social services.
"I believe we will turn this tragedy into an opportunity," Davis concluded in his letter, "to not just reduce gang violence, but change the environment that allows gangs to exist in our community."

 


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