Bullet wounds man in house

By MARIA INES ZAMUDIO • The Salinas Californian • April 29, 2008

Police responded to a report of a shooting about 8:30 p.m. on the 1100 block of East Laurel Drive, which left a man hospitalized after a bullet came through a wall of his home.

After the man was loaded into an ambulance, his teenaged son leaned against neighbors, sobbing as they attempted to comfort him.

“My dad, my dad,” he said.

But even as gang violence escalates in Salinas, police are beginning to catch up.

Salinas police on Friday made their first arrest this year in a gang-related homicide, taking Robert Sanchez, 18, into custody on suspicion of killing Martin Santoya on Friday afternoon at Block and Parsons avenues. The city has seen nine homicides, eight of which police are investigating as gang-related.

Sanchez was charged with murder with gun and gang enhancements and is expected to be arraigned today.

On Sunday, police arrested Luis Chavez, 22, and two boys on suspicion of taking part in the shooting of a house on the 500 block of Mae Avenue on Sunday afternoon. No one was injured in that shooting.

“We made an arrest within minutes of witnesses calling in,” Cmdr. Terry Heffington said. “When the call came in and the officers heard the description of the suspects, they

were nearby and were able to identify the suspects.”

Another 16-year-old boy was arrested Monday on suspicion of attempted murder in connection with the same shooting, in addition to probation and weapons violations.
Violence is citywide

Still, police don’t expect a slowdown in violence anytime soon.

While many shootings in the past centered on east Salinas, this year, gang activity has brought ambulances, yellow tape and fear to sites throughout the city. Three of the homicides so far in 2008 have been on the south side, two on the north and three on the east.

On Friday, for instance, a fight broke out at a gang party on the 700 block of Archer Street near Hartnell College and the city’s center. The fight left George Garcia, 40, fatally shot, and his brother Andre Garcia, 44, stabbed multiple times. Andre Garcia was flown to a Bay Area hospital, where he was listed in “serious but stable condition,” police said.

Officials say the latest increase in gang violence is just proof that the estimated 3,000 gang members in Salinas know no boundaries.

“Gangs have always been a city-wide problem,” said Monterey County Gang Task Force Cmdr. Dino Bardoni. “People have the misconception that this is only a problem from one part of town.”

For generations, Salinas has been a boundary city where Northern and Southern California prison gangs battle for control of illicit drug and gun trades, gang experts said.

But violence doesn’t just stem from clashes between rival gangs, Bardoni said. He said internal gang conflicts have resulted in shootings this year and, in some cases, homicides.
‘We can’t do it alone’

Bardoni cautioned that such activity is nothing new. “It is not just this year,” he said. “(Violence within a gang) is quite common.”

Police are working overtime to stem the violence, but Heffington said they still need help from the community.

Heffington said the arrests in this weekend’s two cases would not have happened if people hadn’t come forward with information.

“We can’t do it alone,” she said. “They can’t leave someone else to make that call.”

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