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Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Shooting death of Hugo Salinas brought the number of killings in the city to 20

"One homicide is one too many," Mayor Dennis Donohue said following the death of 17-year-old Hugo Salinas. shooting death of a teenage boy Tuesday brought the number of killings in the city to 20, just shy of 1994's high of 24. Police said Salinas was shot several times just before 9:30 a.m. in the 1300 block of Nogal Drive. He died there on the sidewalk and investigators searched for clues in the neighborhood, which sits atop a slight bluff overlooking Natividad Creek Park. Cmdr. Kelly McMillin said people in the area reported hearing one or two gunshots and then a car driving away. But investigators don't know if a vehicle was involved and they have no suspects. They did, however, say the shooting appears to be gang-related. It's a common thread with many of the other slayings and the scores of shootings in the city this year. "People that are not associated with gangs have much less to fear," McMillin said. "Gang members target gang members and associates. In the majority of our homicides, there is a clear gang connection." He said some of the slayings may be cases where the victim was mistaken for a gang member. But gangs have been ruled out in only one homicide, the stabbing death of a 46-year-old woman in February that police say was carried out by her boyfriend. Longtime anti-gang violence activist Deborah Aguilar, whose son was gunned down in 2002, sat on a sidewalk at the scene where Salinas was killed Tuesday and quietly sobbed.
Aguilar, an advisory member of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's California Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention Program, vowed to fight the recent spate of gang violence in Salinas and the ongoing devastation it propagates.
"Regardless (if it was gang-related), it's another loss and another family devastated," said Aguilar, the founder of a support group for parents who have lost a child to violence. "We've got to unite and become strong. We can't let this evil win. We will beat this." After a relatively low number homicides in recent years — seven in 2005, seven in 2006 and 14 in 2007 — police say the number of homicides has increased this year because gangs are attacking rivals and their own members.
Donohue said he recognizes the concern the shootings raise in the community and that the level of violence in the city is unacceptable. He stressed however, as he has in the past, that the issue is being addressed. "We have a game plan and we are not going to deviate from one event to another," he said. Donohue said he anticipates that the California Highway Patrol and the Monterey County Sheriff's Office will soon join the city police department in its efforts to quell the recent wave of violence. Including the shooting death of Salinas on Tuesday, there have been nine suspected gang shootings that have left three people dead and nine others wounded in the last four weeks. Police Chief Daniel Ortega, Donohue, other city officials and representatives of the Sheriff's Office and CHP met Tuesday for the first time since the police department said it would ask for outside help last week. McMillin said increased police enforcement is effective in decreasing violence, but it does not get to the root of the issue. "The police department will never stop the fundamental problem of gang membership," he said. "The question is what does society at large have to do."



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