Twenty-one-year-old Michael Sanchez was shot and killed on the corner of 24th and Shotwell streets at 7:10 p.m. Friday night in an incident police believe to be gang related. Another victim was also shot but is in stable condition, according to a crime alert from Captain Stephen Tacchini.
This is the first known murder in the Mission District this year. Eyewitness reports of the incident varied.
“There was a gun battle,” said Peter Ambrosia, who lives half a block from the incident. “I heard at least five shots.”
A witness who wouldn’t be identified said he saw a white stretch limousine and small SUV approach the intersection before the shooting. Angry words were exchanged between people in the vehicles and people on the street, then a fight broke out and the two victims were shot.
He believed the two groups to be members of the Norteño and Sureño gangs, which are typically associated with red and blue, respectively. Ambrosia said he saw several people in baggy white shirts.
Police responded Saturday by saturating the area with additional patrols, including the Honda Unit—a squad of officers on sporty motorcycles—the mostly plain-clothed Gang Task Force and Fugitive Recovery Enforcement Team, and additional bicycle and foot-beat officers, Tacchini said in the alert. A command van was also spotted at 24th and Folsom streets.
At this time last year, there was a string of seven murders in a two-week period. Gang violence has been down so far this year, said Officer Kate Joshua from the command van, and police are upping their presence in an effort to keep it that way.
Jessie Santiago, who has been living at the 24th and Shotwell intersection for 15 years, said he heard a gunshot and looked outside to see a large brawl broken out involving what he estimated to be ten teenagers out of a group of 30-40.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve seen that kind of action,” said nearby resident Regina Sinsky. A man was shot outside of her house last year, she said.
But several neighbors reported that things have been getting louder in the neighborhood over the past few months. Sinsky has noticed a lot more “gang bangers” hanging out, more “rowdiness” and angry voices, and more cars speeding and doing burnouts.
In the past week alone, she’s called the police three times, she said.
“When it starts getting louder, it’s a prelude to this kind of thing,” said Sinsky of the murder.
Josh Bevelacqua, who has lived on 24th Street for the past 15 years, said that he calls 911 once a month on average, most commonly when he hears gunshots or domestic violence.
In the mid-90s, things were much worse, Bevelacqua said. He witnessed gunfights with shooters crouched between cars from his window. On one occasion, bullets cut through the walls of his apartment “like butter.” He later pulled one out of his ceiling.
Things have gotten safer over the years thanks to increased police presence, he said—an observation many neighbors shared.
Nevertheless, the possibility of retaliation and escalating violence following last night’s murder makes some neighbors nervous.
“You can tell people are on high alert,” Bevelacqua said. “It’s scary.”
“It’s not that I feel I’m going to be a target,” said Sinsky. “But you can be an accidental victim. I don’t want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Jessie Santiago agreed that police have made the neighborhood safer but has also experienced firsthand one of its downsides—suspicion and confrontation by police of anyone who looks gang affiliated.
With a do-rag and lots of tattoos, Santiago, 46, said police often stop him on the street to ask for his name—something he attributes to looking like a gangster to police, even when he’s walking with his Shih Tzu.
Officer Joshua encouraged anyone with information to come forward.
“We do rely on what the community sees to complete these investigations,” she said.
Please call Homicide Unit Inspector Valerie Matthews at (415) 553-1145 or the anonymous tip line at (415) 431-2127 with information.