San Gabriel Valley Tribune

San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Duarte gangs’ turf wars stretch back to the 1980s
By Marshall Allen
Staff Writer

Sunday, April 27, 2003 –

DUARTE — Believed to be motivated by racial hatred and territorial disputes, a gang rivalry that is in its third decade is reaching a crescendo, according to authorities, with one homicide and four reported gun battles in as many weeks, including an attack in which a college football star with a promising career in the National Football League was shot.

Police are frustrated, community leaders are exasperated, and many are calling for residents to stand up and say: “Enough!’

“The whole community needs to step forward,’ said Detective Tiffany Moltmann, a gang investigator for the sheriff’s Temple Station. “Every single person in every single household needs to say, ‘We’re not taking it anymore.”

The African-American street gang Duroc Crips and the Latino gang Duarte Eastside have been fighting for so long that fathers, even grandfathers, are passing a heritage of guns and graffiti down the family tree, according to authorities.

“You talk about historic: you’ve got second-, third-, and fourth- generation gangbangers,’ said Mary Barrow, spokeswoman for the city of Duarte.

Each gang has at least 100 members, Moltmann said, and they operate primarily in the county area between the cities of Duarte, Monrovia and Arcadia. Some call the place, “No Man’s Land,’ Barrow said.

The gangs have been warring since the early 80s, Moltmann said, and periodically, the violence escalates. It’s usually motivated by battles over turf, and the racial prejudice that’s reflected in the slurs gang members spray paint on neighborhood walls, she said.

Usually, the victims of violence are gang members, said Lt. Steve Biagini of the Temple Sheriff’s Station. But on Sunday evening, April 20, a high profile innocent, Dennis Weathersby, was caught in the crossfire.

Weathersby, 22, a football star at Duarte High School and Oregon State University, was a potential first-round pick in the NFL draft before he was shot by some gang members in an SUV, in front of a house in the 700 block of Meridian Street, authorities said. Instead, the talented cornerback was drafted Sunday in the fourth round by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Weathersby isn’t a gang member, his friends said, but he grew up in the neighborhood, and played football with men who are now gang members. Known gang members live in the house where he was shot and the home has been the site of three recent shootings, Biagini said.

The shooting caught the community’s attention. Weathersby, a “true success story,’ had just had his jersey retired at Duarte High School and was an Academic All-American at Oregon State, “and he comes walking out of the house and gets shot,’ Biagini said.

Now, several community leaders said they’re renewing their efforts to stop the violence. The gang violence was a topic of discussion at Tuesday’s Duarte City Council meeting, even though much of it occurs outside the city’s borders, Barrow said.

At the meeting, the City Council directed the City Manager to organize a summit between the Monrovia Police Department, Temple Sheriff’s Station and the Monrovia-Arcadia-Duarte Town Council, a group that oversees the county area between the cities.

“We need to review what we’re doing, and see what more can be done to stem this violence that does impact our city,’ Barrow said.

Stopping the violence won’t be easy, according to authorities, who said it’s an uphill battle to stop the war.

A primary frustration at the Temple Sheriff’s Station is that the victims offer no assistance in stopping the violence, Biagini said. For example, about two months ago a shooting victim was transported against his will to a local hospital for treatment. But he walked out of the facility after being cleaned up, Biagini said.

“That’s the kind of mentality we deal with when we talk to these victims,’ Biagini said. “They don’t want to help us, they retaliate against each other.’

Without help from the victims or the community, authorities have the difficult task of either catching a shooter in the act, or finding guns in a car, Biagini said.

“It’s absolutely frustrating,’ Biagini said. “Even when you think you’re getting ahead, you’re not getting very far ahead. It would be nice if it would all stop, but I think that’s being a bit idealistic.’

Without the cooperation of victims and witnesses, there’s not a lot deputies can do, Moltmann said.

The city of Duarte, and the county, offer numerous programs to help keep kids from getting involved in gangs, Barrow said, and she believes many young people are being turned away from gangs. But the gangbangers aren’t kids, she said.

“We’re not talking about kids, we’re talking about adults,’ Barrow said. “These are people in their 20s.’

Moltmann said she knows of at least one gang member who’s in his late 40s. “They’re not going to be going to after-school programs,’ she said.

The solution to the gang problems in “No Man’s Land’ may include more parental and community involvement, said Reyna Diaz, a local activist and Duarte Unified school board member. One of the community’s biggest problems, Diaz said, is that parents don’t even know if their children are gang members.

Residents can take action to take on the gangs, Diaz said. One example she said she’s started is painting over gang graffiti, without waiting for the county to do it.

“If we see graffiti that says ‘Eastside’ that means they’re taking our community,’ Diaz said. “I want to see my community belong to me and my kids and my grandkids.’

— Marshall Allen can be reached at (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4461, or by e-mail at marshall.allen@sgvn.com.

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