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Salinas Gang Expert Warns of Retaliation

More violence likely


Salinas Gang Expert Warns of Retaliation;
Violence Suppression Unit expands patrols

December 2, 2002
By J. Michael Rivera
The Californian

As police worked to halt a spate of deadly street
violence that began last week in north Salinas, one
gang expert warned the cycle of homicides and
retaliation will likely continue.
?I?m not letting my children out, not while this is going
on,? said Brian Contreras, executive director of
Second Chance Youth Program, an agency that helps
youngsters get out of gangs.
Last week brought four homicides in north Salinas in
unlikely settings such as McKinnon Park on
Thanksgiving morningand a busy supermarket
parking lot on Friday night.
At about 10:15 p.m. Friday, Victor Alfonso Torrez,
16, and Epifanio ?Epi? Ventura Jr., 21, both of
Castroville, were shot and killed outside the
Albertson?s on North Main Street.
On Sunday, Ventura?s friends and relatives gathered
at the family home in Castroville, trying to make sense
of the homicide. But in the end, they said they couldn?t
understand why the 21-year-old church volunteer and
dutiful son would be a target.
?He worked at Hertz (Rent-A-Car), and he went to
the mall to get some shirts because there were some
good sales,? said his brother, Oscar Mora, 28. ?He
met a friend of his at the mall, and they went to go
meet some girls at the Albertson?s parking lot. He was
just at the wrong place at the wrong time.?
Torrez?s family was unavailable for comment Sunday.
In another killing Friday night, Hugo Sanchez, 34, of
Salinas, was fatally shot at 9:55 p.m. while walking in
front of a home on the 1600 block of El Dorado
?I was watching TV, and I heard this ?Peck! Peck!
Peck!? said Gilbert Cordoncillo, 40, who has lived on
the block with his family since 1970. ?I heard a car
take off, and then I heard a guy moaning. My
neighbor went to go put (direct) pressure on the guy?s
neck, and I called the police.?
He said violence is unusual in his neighborhoodbut
Thursday?s and Friday?s shootings have him worried.
?Nothing ever happened over here, just a couple of
car accidents,? Cordoncillo said. ?It used to be just on
the east side, but now it?s getting closer. First at
McKinnon Park on Thanksgiving, now here.?
Friday night?s slayingswithin 20 minutes and less
than one mile of each othercame one day after
19-year-old Adrian Alberto was fatally shot at 11
a.m. after a fight broke out at an annual Thanksgiving
pick-up football game.
?That?s the callousness, coldness and cowardice of it
right now,? Contreras said. ?To do it on
Thanksgiving? That person needs to be put away for
lifeI don?t care who they are.?
Salinas police Lt. Dan Perez said Sunday the
investigations into Thursday?s and Friday?s slayings
had produced no new developments. But he added
more police are on the street.
?We put out extra people in order to have a little
more saturation where (gang members) are cruising,?
he said. ?Our Violence Suppression Unit is following
any suspected gang members.?
Late Saturday night, officers say they arrested three
Norte񯠧ang members after they left Valley Center
Bowl on South Main Street with open containers of
The three men, Gustavo Espinoza, 20, Jubencio
Alvarado 21, and Diego Espinoza, 20, were stopped
in traffic at 11 p.m. on South Main Street. Police said
they found loaded handguns concealed in their
pockets. A .32 caliber revolver, .32 caliber
semiautomatic pistol, and a .22 caliber revolver were
confiscated. The men were booked into Monterey
County Jail on concealed-weapons charges.
But as police boosted their presence, violence in the
city continued Sunday night. About 7:15 p.m.,
someone fired one round from a large caliber handgun
through the living room window of a home on the
18000 block of Northridge Drive in north Salinas.
The round lodged into a living room wall without
hitting the occupants, a father and son, police said.
Despite the increase in violence since Thanksgiving,
Perez said members of the public should carry on
with their everyday lives.
?We?ve had people call us and say that they?re afraid
of going to the store,? he said. ?I tell them, ?Don?t let
(gang members) dictate how you?re going to run your
lives. If you see groups starting to gather, and it looks
like trouble, call it in, and get out of there.? ?

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