Carson City gang violence on the rise
Appeal Staff Writer
Lima Street. Eastwood Tokers. Bambinos. 18th Street. Mexican Little Criminals.
According to police statistics, 15 percent of the crimes committed in Carson City in 2005 were perpetrated by members of Carson City’s five main gangs. Out of an estimated 54,000 residents, 680 gang bangers or gang associates are responsible for that 15 percent and it’s only getting worse, an official said.
“I want the community to know we have a problem,” said Sgt. Mark Marshall, gang officer with the Carson City Sheriff’s Department. “For a small number of people, those are pretty impressive statistics.”
Oct. 27, on a street lined with $300,000 homes, gunfire erupted during a Halloween party. Bambinos or their partners in Lima Street exchanged gunfire with Eastwood Tokers or their partners in 18th Street. When the smoke from more than 21 rounds cleared, a 20-year-old father was dying, lying on the sidewalk with a gunshot wound to his head. An admitted Eastwood Toker was driving himself to the hospital with gunshot wounds to his chest, arm and ankle.
Gang warfare in the community has grown increasingly violent. The first noteworthy gang-related death was in 1998 when Sammy Resendiz, the purported founder of the Eastwood Tokers, was beaten to death in a motel room by a group of American Indian youth seeking revenge for an assault on a girl by the same Eastwood Toker shot in last week’s deadly gun battle.
Since then, Resendiz’ death has been outshined by others. Clint Jacobo was gunned down in a field east of the Piñon Plaza in August 1999. The suspects in that case are believed to have fled the country with help from Lima Street members.
Juan Carlos Alegria, 24, an associate of the Eastwood Tokers, was killed on Eighth Street by a California man connected to a gang in Los Angeles who was believed to be in town to sell methamphetamine.
And the list goes on. Here are some of the alleged gang-related incidents in Carson City in the past six years:
• A 19-year-old with gang affiliation was shot in the thigh Aug. 12 on Woodside Drive, an area known for gangs.
• Shots were fired by Eastwood Tokers at Lima Street members in the busy parking lot of the Carson City Wal-Mart on July 31.
• A 16-year-old Eastwood Toker was shot in the face July 17, in front of a home on August Drive.
• A 31-year-old pastor, was shot in the head trying to buy methamphetamine from two Eastwood Tokers on Nov. 14, 2005, on West College Parkway.
• A 16-year-old was shot in the chest Oct. 15, 2005, at a dance hall in the 1700 block of North Carson Street. An Eastwood Toker is believed responsible, but an arrest has not been made.
• A Lima Street man was shot in the abdomen by an Eastwood Toker on Nov. 24, 2004, at the corner of Brown Street and Edmonds Drive.
• A 17-year-old gang member shot himself in the leg with a gun he was carrying in his pocket when he jumped over a fence on Nov. 1, 2004.
• A 14-year-old boy was shot in the leg by Bambinos in the 100 block of Koontz Lane on June 11, 2004.
• A 22-year-old Eastwood Toker, was shot in the hand by a Lima Street member as he rode in a vehicle at Robinson and Saliman streets on July 29, 2002.
• A Lima Street man was shot twice in the back on April 30, 2001, on Airport Road by an Eastwood Toker.
Carson City’s gangs all claim allegiance to the Sureños, a prison-spawned gang from California whose enemies are the Norteños.
Marshall likens the warfare in Carson City to baseball. There’s the American League and the National League. During the regular season, those leagues battle amongst themselves; during the World Series they take on each other.
The gangs in Carson City cannot be distinguished based on clothing, he said. They all identify themselves with the color blue and the number 13, using Arabic or Roman numerals, or a combination of both: 13, XIII, or X3. The number and color is the symbolism of Sureños.
“They wear the blue, they claim Sureños. You know from the blue he’s National League. If you see the guy with the red rag, he’s Norteños or American League,” said Marshall. “But all Sureños don’t get along.”
Marshall said any parent should be concerned if they see their child displaying the number 13 or being obsessive about the color blue. He said parents should also be concerned if their child’s grades drop, they are disrespectful or miss curfew, there is graffiti in their rooms or on their school books or they possess money or items that cannot be explained. The child’s involvement with a group of friends in criminal behavior may be another sign, he said. He said gangs use hand signals to communicate; use of such signals should also alert parents to possible gang association.
A difference between Carson City gangs from gangs in other areas is that these gangs aren’t operating any large-scale criminal enterprises.
“They are not drug traffickers; some of the members do sell drugs, but they are not major drug players at this time,” Marshall said.
“If we get a dozen Lima Street guys hanging out in their front yard, all we are going to get is a noise complaint, but if a Toker drives by, now you’ve got potential for a shoot-out,” he said. “Just look at the shooting last week, we had one gang at the party and all of a sudden the other gang shows up and guess what, it exploded.”
Carson City now has third-generation gang members, which means some of today’s members were born into the gangs. Marshall said others come to the gangs through peer pressure or economic means. If the only place your family can afford to live is gang infested, it’s likely your child will become a member, he said.
Elvira Diaz, 43, owns Sierra Bakery in the Scolari’s Shopping Center. Her shop is filled with the scents of donuts and breads and on the walls are examples of the Quinceanera cakes she can make.
But Sierra Bakery is becoming more than just a place for pastries. It’s where Latinos in Carson City go when they need help.
On Friday, a mother whose 14-year-old daughter ran away with a girlfriend went to the bakery to ask Diaz to put a sign in the window. Diaz pulled the woman inside and began trying to find someone to help.
Earlier in the week she offered comfort to the family of the man killed in the Longridge Drive shooting and went about contacting media to try to raise money for the funeral.
Tenacious and determined, the Mexico City-born Diaz sees what the latest gang shooting has done to Carson City. She dreams of one day bringing the Anglo and Latino communities together. She said the first step was Wednesday night at a meeting held with Hispanic leaders, Carson City leaders and police to discuss ways to stop the gang violence.
“After what happened, it’s a wake-up call to people and I’m really excited about this. After this kind of disaster we can take the opportunity to really do something good,” she said. “We need to try to explain why this happened and how we can prevent it from happening again.”
Some ideas brought up in the Wednesday meeting were to put uniforms in the schools, and integrate the Latino kids into groups like Boy Scouts and cheerleading and AYSO Soccer. From that first meeting came another. A parent awareness program will be from 7-9 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Sierra Room in the Carson City Community Center.
“No one in Carson City knows how to react to these gangs. We need to learn so we can stop them,” she said.
Diaz admits she could sit on the sidelines and do nothing, but for her it’s not an option.
“The Latino community is fragmented. There really are no Latino leaders here,” she said. “I see the disconnection in this community and I see I must do this. If I don’t, who will?”
• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at email@example.com or 881-1213.
Carson City police have 12 criteria they use to establish if a person is a gang member. A suspected member must be in possession of or fall under three of the criteria to be identified as a gang member.
Information on that person is kept in the gang file for three years. If, in that three years, they come in contact with police and match just one of the criteria, the three years begins again.
Investigators use the files to determine who to question in crimes involving other members of the same gang.
The criteria are as follows:
• Self admission
• Gang moniker or nickname
• Gang tattoo or clothing
• Possession of drawings, letters, graffiti associated with gangs
• Possession of photographs showing them alone or in groups flashing gang signs
• Identification by a law enforcement officer
• Court records of gang affiliation
• Affiliation with known gang members
• Identified as a gang member by informants or inmates
• Identification from media as a gang member
• Reports from other gang intelligence units that the person is a gang member
• Identification by other gang members
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Aren’t gangs made up of just one race and sex?
A. Not anymore. Gangs are crossing all ethnic and sexual boundaries. In Carson City, more than 70 percent of gang members are Hispanic, but there are also white, black and Asian members.
Q. How can we stop gangs?
A. We can’t stop them but we can control them. First by stopping the recruiting of young kids, mainly at school. You could show your child the real truth about gang life by taking him or her to court while a gang member is on trial. Ask him or her if they see any other gang member in the courtroom to support the one on trial.
Q. Aren’t gangs just a bunch of people just having fun?
A. No! Gangs are kids and young adults who are carrying loaded weapons and are not afraid to use them.
Q. If we just ignore them, won’t they go away?
A. No! Gangs are in their fifth and sixth generation and are growing at a very fast pace. Statistics show that the average life span of a gang member is 23 to 25 years. By 35 they are either in jail or dead. Currently, there are more than 75,000 gang members in the U.S.
Source: Carson City Sheriff’s Department