One violent death. One stabbing in broad daylight. Three young men shot - once of whom is now paralyzed from the chest down. All in the last three weeks.
Little information about these assaults has been released to the public. The names and criminal histories of all the victims remain unknown. All cases are still under investigation.
And so – in the absence of information, residents speculate. “Is there a gang war going on?” asked a Mission Loc@l reader who identified himself as Jorge. He mentioned the recent vandalization of the Solidarity mural at 24th and Capp, where the faces of black figures in the mural were covered with white spray paint.
“All of these cases seem to be gang related,” says Lieutenant Troy Dangerfield, a public relations officer with the SFPD. “I don’t know if any particular gang is being targeted.” The Gang Task Force is working hard on the cases, he said.
Several sources familiar with gangs in the Mission said there is a conflict between Norteños and some people at Bernal Dwellings – a housing project that happens to be located within Norteño territory, but with many black residents.
Community groups met Tuesday afternoon at the defaced Solidarity mural at Capp and 24th streets and urged “brown and black” unity. “The recent violence is about kids not understanding the history of the neighborhood,” said Alfredo Najera III a safety coordinator. Valerie Tulier, from the Mission Peace Collaborative, urged Latinos and blacks to come together and be united as victims of the “same kind of oppression.”
Ricardo Garcia-Acosta of the Community Response Network, a non-profit that counsels at-risk-youth, looked at the mural. “There are some racial undertones,” he said, identifying some of the graffiti near the painted-over faces as Norteño gang signs.
“Three years ago, this wouldn’t have happened,” said Garcia-Acosta. He said that the back and forth retaliation seems to be over “petty” arguments – minor slights, spiraling out of control. For all the suffering that its caused, this is, he says at its core, “mostly a turf war between kids.”
The recent incidents began with the shooting at 11 p.m. on November 2nd, at 15th and Mission. Accounts vary as to exactly what happened – the police report says that one or two Hispanic men in their 20s approached the victim on foot and shot him. Two witnesses at the scene told Mission Loc@l that the shooting was a drive-by. A bystander at the crime scene, who asked not to be identified, described the victim as a Sureño.
Two weeks later, on November 16th, a 19 year-old black man was shot multiple times in the torso at Bernal Dwellings. This incident was released by police and didn’t make it onto the list of gang-related violence.
The next day, on November 17th, a man was stabbed getting on the bus at 24th and Mission at around 4:30 p.m. An hour later an 18-year-old man was shot several times and left paralyzed at the corner of 25th and Capp.
“I saw them both on the same day, I can’t believe it happened so quickly,” said a young woman at the solidarity barbecue on Tuesday who knew both victims. “I don’t think the violence is ever going to stop. It never has. It’s just another day in the Mission.”
Then, this past Friday a shooting at Mission and 19th left a 17-year-old man with life-threatening injuries and further concerns of gang activity. The only description available of the suspects: three Hispanic men in their 20s.
On Saturday, a 30 year-old black man was shot and killed on Mission Street, between 17th and 18th, at 6:15 p.m. Like the incidents the previous week, the shooting happened on one of the Mission’s busiest corridors at a time when most businesses were still open. Two Hispanic men on their 20′s were described as fleeing the scene on foot. The skittishness about stepping forward as an eyewitness that can be pervasive in the Mission was evident at the crime scene. ““I do not know what happened,” one onlooker said. “But if I did I wouldn’t tell you.”
“I don’t believe the victim at 17th and Mission was the intended target,” said Officer Keith, of the Mission Police Station, before adding that he can’t say any more, beyond stating that the murder is still under investigation. “”It’s difficult for us,” Keith said. “We understand the need that the public has for information, but we need to be careful because sometimes giving out information is helpful in solving a case, and sometimes it isn’t. That information might cause someone to flee before we get ahold of them.”
A few hours after the murder on 17th, a fight broke out at Capp and 22nd, right on the line that more or less divides the Mission into Norteño and Sureño territory (it’s one of the oddities of San Francisco that the Sureños are actually above the Norteños, geographically). A 44-year-old man was left with a fractured eye socket and three suspects – two Hispanic men and one black man, were seen fleeing the scene on foot.
Police are asking for information in all cases. The anonymous tip line number is 415-575-4444.