Desert Hot Springs church bears the brunt of gang war
Denise Goolsby (My Desert) | June 11, 2011
Michael Shaw was walking up to First Community Baptist Church in Desert Hot Springs with another church-goer when the woman pointed up.
The pure white cross on top of the church had been defaced with black, spray-painted gang graffiti, including “187” — the penal code for murder.
Shaw quickly got his own spray paint.
“I climbed up on the roof and covered it,” he said. “I wasn’t going to let them control this church. This is our building.”
A week and a half later, on Monday, shots were fired at a group of teenage gang members coming to a church art program. No one was hurt.
Just two months ago, church members carried a cross for nearly 3 miles through town to celebrate Good Friday and Jesus Christ’s final hours before crucifixion.
That rival gang associates would choose this place to wage territorial warfare shows just how insidious the overall gang problem has become.
In March 2009, police struck out at gangs with the largest law enforcement action in Riverside County at the time, “Operation Falling Sun.”
Nearly 700 federal, state and local officers arrested more than 120 people in Desert Hot Springs during raids of suspected members.
Two months later, a Riverside County Superior Court Judge issued injunctions against two street gangs in Desert Hot Springs.
“It’s the next generation, in my opinion,” said the church’s art teacher, Meridy Volz. “They’re like a gang of lost boys.”
But Desert Hot Springs police Chief Pat Williams said he considers this an isolated incident, not part of a larger trend.
Image source: Jay Calderon / The Desert Sun