East Palo Alto Police Chief Ron Davis said today that Sunday night’s fatal shooting of a 16-year-old was the last straw that prompted him to declare a crime emergency in the city, nearly doubling the amount of patrol officers on the street at certain times. The shooting of Jose Quinonez, a former student at Woodside High School, was the most recent in a spike of shooting incidents in East Palo Alto that have increased in “frequency and severity” since January, Davis said. “This was the one final incident that made us enhance our response immediately,” Davis said.
There have been five homicides and more than 50 firearm assaults this year, including a shooting that injured a grandmother, her six-year-old granddaughter and four other people waiting at a bus stop earlier this month, he said. By declaring a crime emergency, the police chief will be able to cancel days off for patrol officers and make assignment changes as needed. “We will double the amount of patrol officers in the field at peak times,” Davis said.
He also confirmed that East Palo Alto will continue to partner with other Peninsula police agencies to beef up daily patrols and assist in shooting investigations. No suspects have been identified in the shooting that killed Quinonez and wounded two of his friends, Davis said, though he believes the recent spate of shootings could be related to an “internal power struggle” within the Norteno street gang.
The police chief said he intends to organize a “call-in” with Norteno gang members and community leaders to offer intervention services and “send a very clear message from the community about accountability,” he said. “We want them to know that ‘we know who you are and we don’t want to see you get murdered,'” he said. Meanwhile, the Woodside High School community was mourning the loss of one of its students. Justin Andrews, who last year coached Quinonez on Woodside High’s junior varsity football team, said in an email that he was “a pleasure to coach and an overall great kid.” “It’s a coach’s worst nightmare to hear that something like this happened to one of our guys,” Andrews said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Jose’s family.” East Palo Alto Mayor Ruben Abrica called the need to declare a crime emergency a “tragic situation,” but said the increase in law enforcement presence was necessary to combat the spike in gang violence and protect innocent members of the community.
“We are doing all we need to stop this,” Abrica said. “The people who are doing this need to be brought to justice.” The mayor said he will supported the police chief’s plan to call in leading gang members and appeal to them to stop the violence. “We need to communicate with the leaders of the gangs — young and old — and make an appeal to them to stop hurting innocent people,” Abrica said.
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