Organizers of a holiday gang truce here tried to remain optimistic this week after the short-lived peace was shattered by a pair of drive-by shootings Christmas night.
Eight people were wounded when shots were fired from a car into two homes along 7th Street, in territory controlled by “12th Street,” the city’s largest gang. The attacks, which apparently involved two guns, took place within three minutes and half a mile of each other about 11 p.m. Friday, police said.
No one was seriously hurt in the shootings, and most of the injuries were caused by flying glass, officers reported. One of the two adults wounded in the first shooting was briefly hospitalized. Six people, including two boys aged 2 and 13, were hurt in the second attack; all were treated at Pomona Valley Hospital and released Friday night.
The Cherrieville gang, which has battled with 12th Street for decades, is believed to be responsible for the shooting, Police Capt. Jack Blair said.
“I would think it would be a logical inference,” said Blair, when asked whether the shooting might be the latest salvo in hostilities between Cherrieville and 12th Street.
Gary Elofson, who heads the Police Department’s Crimes Against Persons Unit, said that Cherrieville was the gang most likely to have been behind the shooting, but that “three or four” other gangs could have been responsible.
Two suspects were arrested Friday night. Both were released after questioning, Elofson said. As with many gang-related attacks, the police have been unable to get sufficient information from witnesses, and no further arrests are expected, he said.
Although the injury toll in the attacks was limited, the shootings dealt a major blow to efforts to quell hostilities among Pomona’s 11 gangs. The shootings took place only five days after representatives of four gangs, including Cherrieville, had “broken bread” together in a symbolic pledge to honor a truce during the holidays. The 12th Street group did not participate in truce talks.
Blair said he did not believe that the peace pact had been technically broken, since the truce was essentially an agreement by the four gangs not to attack each other and did not preclude assaults on other gangs.
“Twelfth Street, because they did not participate, would not have a truce with any of the other gangs,” Blair said. “Am I disappointed? Yes, I’m disappointed. Am I surprised? No.”
The shootings may have been in retaliation for a November incident in which a gunman believed to be a member of 12th Street fired from a passing car into a home in the Cherrieville neighborhood, police said. No one was wounded in that attack, Elofson said.
He added that there appears to be a connection between last month’s shooting and the ones on Christmas night. “I can’t go to a court of law with what we have, but we’re pretty sure.”
Must Expect Reverses
Since last spring, Blair has worked to bring gangs together under the aegis of Brother Modesto Leon, a member of the Claretian Roman Catholic order who has worked with gangs in East Los Angeles, and Mike Duran, a former gang member who now directs the county Probation Department’s specialized gang supervision unit.
Blair said he was warned by Leon and Duran to expect setbacks such as last week’s drive-by shootings.
“One of the first things they told me was ‘You’re going to be faced with failures and what you have to do is bring these people back to the starting point,’ ” Blair said. “I think it further heightens our eagerness to get these people in to sit down and meet face to face in a controlled environment.”
Leon said that Friday’s shootings were hardly surprising considering the long and bloody feud between 12th Street and Cherrieville, which has taken 32 lives over the last nine years.
Didn’t Promise Peace
“We’re looking at 40 years of hostility,” he went on. “That’s still war. At no time did we say there would be peace between them.”
Comparing the feuding gangs to warring nations, Duran pointed out that any truce is tentative and that continued violence is more the rule than the exception.
“If (violence) doesn’t happen, thank God,” Duran said. “If it does happen, well, the same things happen with Israel and Palestine and Iran and Iraq. If it happens in the big picture, you’ve got to expect it to happen at the local level. We just have to work toward (peace) and not be discouraged.”
Despite the attacks, Leon said, many gang members in Pomona are still interested in discussing a truce.
“I think you have some people who are not interested in talking, though you have a lot of people who are,” he said. “But it only takes one or two guys to do a drive-by shooting.”
Leon, who has met with parents of gang members since the shootings, said that the incidents have not broken the spirit of those seeking an end to the violence.
“I don’t hear people talking about giving up,” he said. “They’re frustrated, they’re angry, but maybe when they’re mad, they might try different things to solve the problem. . . . They’re discouraged because they would have liked this thing to go through without a hitch, but we’re still on Earth. We’re not in heaven yet.”
Gang violence can be expected to continue in Pomona as long as there are not adequate educational, recreational and employment programs to divert teen-agers from gang activity, Leon said.
Blair cited the experience of Leon and Duran, who worked more than a decade with gangs in East Los Angeles before seeing a reduction in gang-related killings there. On such basis, he said, he does not expect immediate results.
“We’re not going to give up, no matter what happens,” Blair said. “Looking at East Los Angeles, it took at least 10 years for them to reach a point where they can point with pride to what they’ve done. I just hope it doesn’t take us 10 years to reach that point here in Pomona.”