Police said Wednesday the violence that shattered 24th Street this past weekend and left three dead was part of a new division in the Norteño gang and acknowledged that the suspect in Sunday’s shooting, who is now in custody, had been questioned and released just ten minutes before prosecutors say he began a shooting spree at a Mission District pizza parlor.
Police said an intensified police presence will remain in the Mission District temporarily in an attempt to thwart any further clashes.
“We realize this level of deployment is not sustainable,” said Police Chief George Gascón after Wednesday’s Police Commission meeting. “So we need to continue working with the community.”
An increased presence of foot patrols and mostly plain-clothed Gang Task Force officers in and around the Mission after Friday’s first homicide – the first this year in the Mission District – failed to prevent what police described as a retaliatory attack on Sunday.
“We can’t have a street outreach worker or beat cop on every single corner every single second of the day,” said Police Commissioner David Onek. “We were about as close as we could possibly get with that second incident, just a few minutes away, and still an incident occurred.”
Police said Andres Siordia, Sunday’s suspected shooter, who is now in custody, had been searched for weapons at La Raza Park and released just ten minutes before the fight broke out at Papa Potrero’s Pizza.
Gascón said the Sunday shooting was “clearly connected” to the violence Friday and, when pressed, that the perpetrators and victims were associated, if not members, of the Norteño gang.
Police said the violence showed how gang activity has changed over the past year.
“The MS-13 gang was essentially taken off the map. The Sureños are mostly gone,” said Lieutenant James Spillane of San Francisco’s homicide unit referring to two gangs that used to compete with the Norteños.
“I’m not so sure they’ve been ‘taken off the map,’” Gascón responded after the meeting.
Since last year, a large number of federal indictments have targeted the two gangs.
“In that particular case it has been effective,” Gascón said. “It can take out some of the worst cases. But we need to take out the feeder pool as well, and that involves community efforts.”
Spillane explained that the dividing line between the Sureños and Norteños used to run north to south. Now Folsom Street is the dividing line, and two factions of Norteños have emerged – Backstreet to the east; and Frontstreet or Frontline, west of Folsom.
“We have had a lot of attention on the Mission prior to the shooting,” said Gascón, who was still on crutches after twisting an ankle earlier in the week climbing the steps of City Hall.
Gascón repeatedly emphasized community engagement and spoke of reaching out to many groups including those advocating for immigrant rights. “We want people on notice we are not there for a scorched earth campaign or to tow anyone’s car,” he said referring to complaints of racial profiling.
Police commissioners said they were encouraged by reports of a relatively receptive public.
At the commission meeting, Lieutenants Kevin Cashman and Spillane described the two shooting incidents in greater detail than had previously been made public:
Before the first shooting Friday, two members from the Backstreet gang had just graduated from the Conservation Corps and another member had been discharged from prison in the last week. To celebrate, a group rented a limousine on Friday, with about ten people piling in. Another car, reportedly a small SUV, was part of the entourage as well.
They drove around Friday evening, stopping at a number of liquor stores, and were reportedly drunk by 7 p.m., when they stopped in the heart of Frontstreet territory —the corner of 24th and Shotwell streets. There, they started yelling at a group of men on the sidewalk and the entire limo bailed out.
A huge fight erupted in the middle of the street as others, believed to be from the Front Street gang, suddenly appeared, police said
The limo driver, the only reliable witness according to police, drove away during the fight. He said he heard four to five shots, but didn’t see who fired the gun.
The limousine had been rented by a woman living on lower 24th Street. That night, police arrested her brother at the residence, who they believe to be a member of the Backstreet Norteño gang. He acknowledged being in the limo, but said he knew nothing about the fight or the names of anyone else involved. He remains in custody.
As for Sunday afternoon’s shooting, Lt. Spillane said police approached a group of men at La Raza Park on Potrero Avenue and Utah Street. They searched 19-year-old Andres Siordia, who is now charged with murder, but no weapons were found. He was seen leaving the park headed towards 24th Street.
Five to ten minutes later, a fight started outside Papa Potrero’s Pizza, then moved inside. Siordia was seen on surveillance video, as the brawl continued around him, pulling out a gun and firing it at a man with a stool raised above his head about to strike another man. The shooter continued into the bar, still shooting, police said. Three were hit in all.
The first man shot, Francisco Cornejo, 26, ran out, collapsing a block away, and was later pronounced dead at the scene. Francisco Peña, 41, was taken to San Francisco General Hospital, where he died. The third man, who has not yet been identified, received minor gunshot wounds and has since been released from the hospital.
Siordia was taken into custody by police soon after the shooting and was notified Monday that he is charged with one count of homicide and one count of aggravated assault. He has not been charged with killing the first man, police explained, because it could be argued he shot in self-defense.
Gascón continued to address the police response after this tragedy.
“One of the goals here right from the get-go was to have robust community outreach,” explained Gascón.
Lt. Cashman said increased patrols had been better received this year than previously. “I think the homicide on Sunday validated to the community the need for increased police presence.”
“You’re not the enemy,” said Joe Marshall, president of the police commission. “You’re trying to go out and stop this stuff.”