Deadly gang warfare plays out on Sacramento streets
In a city where splintering gang structures have made old rivalries less relevant, one persistent and deadly rift has produced three high-profile Sacramento homicide cases in the past three years.
The deaths included last year’s slaying of an innocent Sacramento State student killed by a stray bullet on a night out with her girlfriends, at what they thought was a safe Folsom Boulevard nightclub almost next door to campus.
This year, police say the same gang dynamic resulted in a shooting at a Meadowview house party that killed a Sacramento High School football player with past gang affiliations.
The third case linked to the same factional rivalry was the 2006 broad-daylight murder on a spring Sunday afternoon of a teenager outside Downtown Plaza.
According to police testimony and other court records, the dispute has pitted elements of a local street gang called the G-Mobb that has ties to an Oakland organization against an Oak Park gang known as the Fourth Avenue Bloods.
In testimony at a recent preliminary hearing into one of the killings, Sacramento police Detective Scott Maclafferty said the violence tracks back to the establishment of the G-Mobb in the Franklin Villa housing complex about 10 years ago. The southside neighborhood had been the site of more than 30 homicides over two decades before the city redeveloped a portion in 2004, increased security and renamed it Phoenix Park.
Maclafferty testified that “we had kind of an influx of Bay Area-influenced gangs” that coveted a foothold in what was then an open-air drug market in Franklin Villa. New arrivals with connections in Oakland called themselves the G-Mobb, after G Parkway, the street that intersected Franklin Villa, the detective said.
“And then the area got revitalized, so they got dispersed throughout the Sacramento area,” Maclafferty testified.
Until then, Maclafferty said, the G-Mobb and gang members from Blood-affiliated subsets had been “co-existing.” After the G-Mobb members relocated out of Franklin Villa, “what we saw was a group of the younger Sacramento kids wanted to become part of this G-Mobb,” he said. “So they began to integrate and form subsets off the G-Mobb with some of the younger G-Mobb members and families.”
A number of local subsets that identified with the G-Mobb, with names such as the Stickup Stars and the Guttah Boys, then fought with Blood affiliates such as the Fourth Avenue group in Oak Park, Maclafferty testified.
Sacramento State criminal justice professor and gang expert Jim Hernandez said the G-Mobb spinoffs and the splintering of the area’s Blood network provide more evidence of a breakdown in the traditional red versus blue, color-coded gang structure.
“This idea of unified gang stuff, with the younger generation, is falling apart,” Hernandez said. “You’ve got smaller groups, local groups, that are fighting everybody.”
It’s a violence that endangers innocent bystanders and took the life of a young woman on a pathway to success.
Kebret Tekle, 20, a student at California State University, Sacramento, was out with friends near the campus at the Library Eat & Drinks nightclub on Folsom Boulevard when a fight on the dance floor moved outside. The fight resulted in gunfire while she was getting in her car to leave.
A bullet from the May 2, 2007, shooting struck Tekle in the head. She slumped sideways in her vehicle and died later that day.
“She was a very good student, very disciplined, a very hard-working person,” Tekle Sebhatu said about his daughter, who grew up in Union City. “She was very kind, very friendly, very active with her sorority group. It was her goal to complete her studies at Sac State and pursue her further education as well.”
Sebhatu sat through most of the preliminary hearing for David Allen Falls, 25, the man suspected of firing the deadly stray bullet. Sebhatu said he was amazed at the police testimony that provided the gang backdrop.
“I had no knowledge, no clue, as to how these gangs operate,” said Sebhatu, an immigrant from the East African nation of Eritrea and an international business instructor for UC Berkeley Extension. “You hear it in the news or you might read about it in the paper. I was surprised to see the depth of their network, how they operate, that they are clueless in a way about other people’s activities and the value that other people give to life.”