Car chase, crash, stabbing in Watsonville blamed on gang rivalry

By Jennifer Squires, Mercury News
Posted: 07/14/2009 01:30:46 AM PDT

WATSONVILLE — A disagreement between rival gang members spurred a car chase Sunday night that ended with one vehicle ramming the other into a strawberry field and a teenager being stabbed.

Officers got a call about a car chase near Beach Street and Ohlone Parkway about 9:45 p.m. and arrived to find the chase ended when a van got stuck in the mud in a strawberry field. When officers arrived, the attackers were gone and three people were in the van: a 17-year-old Watsonville boy suffering from stab wounds to the head, a female driver and a 19-year-old man, police said.

The victims stated they were chased by several suspects in a red car who shouted gang slogans. The suspects rammed the van, causing it to go off the road and get stuck in the mud. Then about five young men came after the victims, according to police.

“People poured out of that car and attacked the occupants of the vehicle that crashed,” Sgt. Saul Gonzalez of the Watsonville Police Department said.

The attackers fled before officers arrived.

The boy was stabbed in the head several times and flown to a trauma center, police said Monday. His injuries did not appear to be life-threatening, authorities said. No one else was hurt.

Gonzalez said the attack was unusual because it was “very, very aggressive. We do have a lot of incidents where other vehicles chase each other but not the magnitude where they’re getting rammed and attacked.”

Police decline to discuss why the attack was so aggressive, but said they had theories. It’s possible the violence began with an argument over a young woman who was riding in the victim’s car, Gonzalez said.

Like many of the recent incidents of gang violence in Watsonville, the victims of the Sunday night attack are not cooperating. Police said that is frustrating. Gonzalez said part of the problem is deep-rooted fears that those who work with police will be targeted by gang members.

“It’s really tough right now. We’re having so much gang crime right now and no one wants to talk,” Gonzalez said.

But he added that being stabbed or shot can be a life-changing experience and, many times, victims decide later to cooperate with investigators.

“That’s why we never give up,” Gonzalez said.

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