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Weekend Shootings Could Signal Gang War

By Jorge Casuso

October 27 -- Three separate shootings this weekend that left one man dead and two others injured could be part of an escalating gang war involving a Santa Monica and a Venice street gang, according to sources familiar with the incidents.

The shootings started Friday, when a single shot was fired in the Pico Neighborhood in Santa Monica, followed by a shooting in Mar Vista Saturday night that left one man dead and one critically injured and culminating in the shooting of a Santa Monica student in the Pico neighborhood Sunday evening.

In the most serious incident -- which took place at 8:15 Saturday night in Mar Vista near Culver City’s western border -- a 25-year-old Venice man was killed and his 19-year-old friend was critically injured after they were shot multiple times.

The older victim, identified as Guillermo Lopez, was pronounced dead at the scene, while the younger man was rushed to a hospital, where he was treated for multiple gunshot wounds, according to LAPD detectives from the Pacific Division.

The two victims in the shooting, which took place on the corner of Washington Boulevard and Wade Street, were confronted by two men who asked where they were from, according to Los Angeles Police.

Lopez and his friend responded that they were not gang members.

The two suspects, who were both carrying handguns, then opened fire, hitting both victims multiple times, police said.

The two suspects in the shooting claimed to be from Santa Monica, said high-ranking sources in the Santa Monica and Culver City police departments.

Less than 24 hours later, on Sunday evening, a Santa Monica high school student was shot in the leg near Kansas Avenue and Cloverfield Boulevard across from Virginia Avenue Park, according to police.

The shot may have been fired in retaliation for the previous night’s fatal shooting, police said.

School Board President Oscar de la Torre, who stopped at the scene, said the victim was a 15-year old student in the local school district.

“He was shot in the leg,” de la Torre said. “I saw blood on the ground.”

Witnesses told de la Torre that the shot was loud, as if it had come from “a high powered rifle.”

“They aimed to kill,” de la Tore said. “The violence is real.”

The string of weekend shootings began on Friday night, when a shot was fired on the 1800 block of 16th Street in a violence riddled pocket of the Pico Neighborhood, according to residents in the area.

No one was hit by the bullet, which may have been fired by members of the Venice gang as a warning, according to local youth who live in the area.

The latest shootings could be part of an escalating gang war between Latino gangs from Santa Monica and Venice, according to sources in the Santa Monica Police Department.

The shootings may have been sparked by the homicide a month ago of a Venice man at a street fair on Abbott Kinney that was blamed on Santa Monica gang members, police said.

Although the suspects in the targeted gang-related killing are not from Santa Monica, the incident sparked a series of retaliatory shootings, police sources said

“They started coming to Santa Monica and shooting,” as well as scrawling gang graffiti in the Pico neighborhood, a source in the department told The Lookout. “I guess Santa Monica decided to retaliate.”

Police boosted patrols in the Pico Neighborhood in September, police said.

Saturday night’s fatal shooting in Mar Vista drew a dozen squad cars from Santa Monica, Culver City and Los Angeles, who converged on the corner near a 99-cent store where the shooting took place.

At least four fire trucks also responded to the scene, as a large crowd gathered to watch behind the yellow police tape that surrounded the scene.

“We had your guys out here,” an LAPD officer said, referring to Santa Monica Police. “They think it was ‘Santa Monica’ that was yelled” by the suspects.

“The victims and the suspects were Hispanic,” a Culver City police officer said. “There’s something going on.”

The weekend shootings come one year after Pico Neighborhood residents took to the streets to stage a peace march after a string of gang-related shootings rocked Santa Monica, leaving a dozen young me dead.

But in recent years, gang warfare has been on a downswing. De la Torre attributes the decline to the gentrification of the Pico Neighborhood, to programs that provide youth with a alternative to street gangs and to better police patrols.

All told, there have been 39 gang-related homicides in the Pico Neighborhood since 1989.

“This is an ongoing problem,” said de la Torre, who is executive director of the Pico Youth and Family Center, which mentors at-risk youngsters. “It needs leadership and attention from those on the City Council.”

On Sunday, residents who live on the block where Friday’s shot was fired held a meet-and-greet barbecue for Council member Bobby Shriver, who is running for reelection November 4. School Board incubent Maria Leon Vazquez and challengers Ben Allen and Cris Bley also attended.

De la Torre then took the council member on a tour of the block, which is where he grew up. He showed Shriver the empty corner lot facing Woodlawn Cemetery, which was already vacant when de la Torre was born 36 years ago.

He also showed Shriver a garbage strewn lot where a fenced, boarded-up building will be replaced with a condominiums and the apartment complex next door, where a dozen bicycles were piled up near the entrance.

“We have a lot of kids here,” de la Torre said. “Something has to be done.”

The Pico Youth and Family Center will hold a panel discussion Saturday to talk about solutions to the gang problem and efforts to prevent further violence, de la Torre said.

Ted Winterer for Santa Monica City Council

Dr. Margaret


Vote # 158


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