General Crime

Salinas Two Dead, Five Wounded in Shooting Outside Taco’s Choice Eatery

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The recent wave of violence in Salinas continued early this morning when a shooter fired into a crowd outside a taqueria, killing two and wounding five, a police commander said today. Police responded to the Taco’s Choice eatery at 608 Williams Road at 1:38 a.m. to find seven people with gunshot wounds, including a 22-year-old man who had been shot multiple times and was deceased, police Cmdr. Dave Shaw said.

Another victim, a 28-year-old man, later died at a hospital, police said. The wounded were three 25-year-old men — one with life-threatening injuries — as well as a 53-year-old woman and a 24-year-old man, Shaw said. The shooting, which is believed to be gang-related, occurred after a fight inside the restaurant spilled out into the parking lot, Shaw said. During the fight, a male suspect took out a handgun and began shooting into the crowd, Shaw said. The suspect is still at large. Salinas’ rash of violence has claimed the lives of seven people since July 24.

The latest killing occurred Sunday, when Salinas police responded to a report of shots fired at 10:21 a.m. at 1126 Parkside Drive and then received a call from the family of Rubin Francisco, 23, saying he had been shot, police said. Francisco died at the scene after police officers attempted to administer CPR, police said. His family members told police that Francisco had only been in Salinas for 15 days and was not affiliated with a street gang. Witnesses in the neighborhood told police that the shooter drove away in a dark-colored compact car, police said.

The murder was the fifth in the city in less than two weeks. In addition, a 30-year-old man and wanted parolee was killed by police on July 26 after he fired a shot and then pointed two guns at an officer, according to police. “Unfortunately we have these swings, we’ve had them before,” Salinas Mayor Joe Gunter said of the violence. Gunter said there are about 1,000 active gang members in a city of 155,000 people. “It happens,” he said. “They appear to be targeting specific people. They’re not just randomly shooting people in the street.”

The city is considering having some police officers work overtime next week to beef up patrols, Gunter said. He pointed out that Salinas hosted several major summer events this past weekend at which no major crimes occurred. There was a girls’ state softball tournament Thursday through Sunday, with young players from San Diego to Eureka competing in Salinas, and around 1,000 runners participated in the Salinas Valley Half Marathon on Saturday. In addition, about 2,000 people attended the Salinas Music and Arts Summit on Sunday. “We had some events in our city that were awesome,” he said.

Last Friday, in an effort to confront potential gang activity that might lead to violence, more than 70 local, state and federal law enforcement officers entered gang hotspots in the city, Salinas police said. Parole and probation officers searched 10 homes in Salinas, and other officers made more than 70 traffic stops and numerous pedestrian checks in areas associated with gangs. The sweeps resulted in the arrests of 11 men, including five on suspicion of drug possession, two on outstanding felony warrants, two for probation violations, one for violating parole and one on misdemeanor warrants, police said.

The Monterey County Joint Gang Task Force, the Monterey County Narcotics-Violent Crime Task Force and the Salinas Police Department’s Violence Suppression Unit led the group, police said. Agencies participating in the sweep included the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Marshals Service, the California Highway Patrol, Monterey County Sheriff’s Office and the Soledad and Greenfield police departments. The Peninsula Regional Violence and Narcotics Task Force and parole and probation officers from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Monterey County Parole Department also took part, police said.

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