As the funeral for 24-year-old Aldo “Trigger” Troncoso arrives, the Mission readies itself in different ways.
Because it is believed that Wednesday’s shootout at 24th and Harrison was in retaliation for the vandalism of a memorial Troncoso’s friends and family built where he was shot, a particularly contentious spot at 17th and Mission, more police — plainclothes and uniformed — move out onto the street.
Staff at a coffee shop just a few feet away from Wednesday’s gunfight deliberate over what company policy should be if violence spills over into coffee. And at a tense meeting on Thursday at the offices of the youth organization Mission Beacon, a group of weary outreach workers tries to figure out how to make sure no one else gets shot this weekend.
Virtually every nonprofit that deals with youth in the Mission sends a representative: HOMEY, the Boys and Girls Club, Horizons, Mission Girls, to name a few. They cluster around tables pushed together in the single cavernous room inside Everett Middle School that makes up Mission Beacon’s offices.
Everyone looks under-slept, stressed out and deeply sad. The office itself has the feeling of a particularly intense student union, right down to the ancient sofas and smell of recently burnt sage.
They’re not especially thrilled to have the press here. They’ll ask this reporter to leave the room on two separate occasions before the meeting is over, citing privacy concerns. As a group they are often pressed into working as a liaison between gangs and the police, and are nervous about how media coverage could affect their relationship with either.
“The police get overtime,” says Valerie Tuller, Mission Beacon’s director. “We don’t get overtime. I know Ricardo” – here she gestures at Ricardo Garcia-Acosta, program director of the Northwest Community Response Network (CRN) — has been working nonstop since Saturday.”
“At the rate this violence is going,” says Garcia-Acosta, “by summertime, we’re going to be out of funds.”
Troncoso’s visitation and funeral on Friday and Saturday are expected to be heavily attended by many groups, including the police. “A lot of the youngsters are going to be self-medicating,” says Garcia-Acosta. Everyone at the funeral home, he says, should keep an eye out and offer safe rides to those who need one.
Much of the conversation at the table revolves around safe rides. All of these organizations are formed around the idea of preventing crime before it happens, so when kids are swept up into street battles, the quickest way to avoid a crisis is to get them away from their particular streets. When tensions are especially high, outreach workers patrol the neighborhood in vans, looking for kids who might be a danger to themselves or others, so they can spirit them away until tensions have died down.
Problem is, gas is now $4 a gallon. One man suggests that they might be able to use the pumps at the police station. Another sighs. “They’ve been promising us gas for years,” he says. “We be crying for gas.”
“And then,” adds Tuller, “what do you do once they’re in the vans? What do you do with them? You don’t have any money to buy them a pizza. To take them to the movies. Or to take them out of town for the weekend, the way that we used to. Yet the police department is entitled to a lot of overtime because they’re in a state of emergency.”
“None of us are getting extra recompense,” a woman adds, ”other than that we love our kids and don’t want them to die.”
It’s rumored that Troncoso’s death is a new eruption of old vendettas — specifically, those surrounding a murder that happened near Cellspace about three years ago. An article in the Examiner today cited Sureño graffiti at 19th and Bryant (Norteño territory) as another trigger.
Several people around the table also lay blame on unintended consequences of the 2007 gang injunction, which severely restricted the movements of several dozen people identified by the City Attorney as Norteno gang members.
The injunctions, the argument goes, not only pushed crime out of the Mission and into other neighborhoods, but also created a power vacuum within the Mission itself — one that was filled by young hotheads. Both the shootout on Harrison and several of the attacks that took place in late November seemed to be the work of inexperienced criminals. Several were in broad daylight, and police believe that at least one of the murder victims was not even an intended target.
“I’ve heard,” says a man at the end of the table, angrily, “that UCSF says that a gunfight costs them $164,800 per bullet wound.” From a business perspective, he says, spending more money on prevention is smart. “On a human level, it’s even greater.”
The following Friday afternoon, the Mission remains quiet. At Mission and 17th, Aldo Troncoso’s memorial spreads along the sidewalk, a thicket of candles. In between them is nestled a paper cup, still full.
Someone, in the course of their day, came by to bring Trigger a cup of coffee.