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3 Teens Jailed in Park Shoot-Out That Killed 1 Boy, Wounded 2 : Violence: Police still aren’t sure what started the fight between rival Santa Ana gangs. They fear a pay-back attack.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Three teen-agers were arrested Friday in connection with an apparent shoot-out between rival gang members that left one youth dead and two injured and shattered the tranquility of a small neighborhood park.

Investigators in Santa Ana Police Department’s gang unit said they were still unsure what prompted Thursday’s bloody rumble at Alona Park, a usually quiet, shady stretch of parkland adjacent to River View Golf Course and the Santa Ana River Trail.

“We haven’t been able to determine what the confrontation was about and what it stemmed from,” said police spokeswoman Maureen Haacker. “It’s going to take some time to unravel this.”

Dennis W. Durbin, 18, of Santa Ana was arrested at 1 a.m. after a night of questioning by gang unit detectives.

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Durbin was being held at Orange County Central Jail in lieu of $250,000 bail and was scheduled to be arraigned Monday, a Sheriff’s Department spokesman said.

In addition, two 15-year-old boys were being held at Orange County Juvenile Hall, Hacker said.

All three suspects, who allegedly belong to the same gang, face charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Police declined to name the dead victim, saying they were concerned about possible gang retaliation. But a source said he was a 17-year-old Santa Ana boy who died of a bullet wound to his back. He was pronounced dead at UCI Medical Center in Orange about an hour after the 1 p.m. shooting.

Hugo Chavez, 20, of Santa Ana was taken to St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, where he was treated overnight for a bullet wound to his buttocks and later released.

Javier Romero, 20, of Santa Ana was treated and released at another hospital for a bullet wound to his right leg, officials said.

Police believe that all three victims are members of the same gang, possibly at war with the gang to which the suspects reputedly belong, Haacker said.

It was unclear if both gangs fired shots at each other, police said. But at least 12 shots were fired during a brief volley of gunfire that broke out on the park’s baseball diamond and moved toward the Santa Ana River as youths began scattering in all directions.

Some errant bullets flew through a chain link fence and crisscrossed the fairway at the nearby golf course, sending golfers running for cover.

Police said that witnesses suggested the shooting was prompted by an argument between the rival gang members. Citing department policy, police declined to say which two of the city’s estimated 30 gangs were involved or what the argument was about.

Members of the Police Department’s gang unit detained Durbin and the two 15-year-olds as they were walking along different streets several hours after the shooting.

Haacker declined to say what aroused the suspicions of police officers who picked up the suspects and brought them in for questioning. But it was believed that gang unit members, who were in the area at the time, knew what suspects to look for based on the identity of the victims.

Meanwhile, on Friday morning, residents and others who frequent the park, considered one of the safest in the city, still felt numbed over the events that unfolded the previous day.

“It’s really amazing that something like that happened,” said Susan Anderson, 31, who sat on a park bench and watched her 2-year-old daughter play on a swing set. “I always thought of this like a quiet, cozy park.”

Ed Dixon, 31, of Huntington Beach said that he was walking his dog, Shorty, at the park about an hour before the shooting started and did not notice anything unusual.

“I drive all the way over here (from Huntington Beach) because I never have any problems,” Dixon said.

His wife, Shawn, shook her head in disbelief as she gathered a pile of plastic cowboys and Indians that her 3-year-old son had scattered in a sandbox.

“I don’t know why these kids have no value of their own lives,” she said. “I don’t get it. Their mothers probably spend more time in funerals than anywhere else.”


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