Two injured in Santa Cruz gang shooting, police say
By Jennifer Squires
Sentinel staff writer

Police say a long-simmering gang feud led to a drive-by shooting on lower Ocean Street late Wednesday that seriously injured two Santa Cruz men and shut down the neighborhood for several hours.

One man, an 18-year-old who suffered a gunshot wound to the back, underwent surgery and remains in serious condition at a local hospital, police said. The second victim, a 21-year-old, was hit in the side with a bullet fragment and has been released from the hospital.

No arrests have been made.

"This is not a random act of violence," police spokesman Zach Friend said. "These victims were specifically targeted"

Officers in the police department's new Street Crimes Unit are not only trying to track down the assailants, but gauge if gang members are plotting retaliatory attacks.

"There's always concern that future crimes could happen," Friend said.

A year ago this week, a gang-related street brawl in Beach Flats injured three people and set off a summer characterized by a relatively high number of violent incidents attributed to gangs. Among the incidents: A Fresno man was fatally shot; two were injured in a separate drive-by; and someone sprayed bullets from a high-powered rifle into homes and vehicles on the Westside.

Police are optimistic this summer will be tamer, pointing to the county-wide gang enforcement operations and the creation of the four-person Street Crimes Unit on May 1 to target gang, drug and prostitution problems.

"We've taken a lot of measures to ensure a safer summer," Friend said.

On Wednesday night, six men three in a green Ford Taurus and three in a maroon four-door sedan exchanged words as the cars headed north on Ocean Street toward Barson Street, according to Lt. Rick Martinez. As they neared the intersection, someone in the Taurus fired at least six shots from a handgun into the sedan, striking the two passengers and blowing out the driver's side window, police said.

"It appears to be a long-standing gang rivalry," Martinez said.

Matt Van Nuys, a 37-year-old man who just moved into an apartment near the corner, heard the shots.

"It's kind of a trip that that can happen right there so close," he said.

After the shooting, the uninjured 19-year-old driver of the maroon sedan drove around the block and stopped at the intersection of Campbell Street and Riverside Avenue. Crowds gathered on Campbell late Wednesday as police cordoned off the area, which remained closed into the early morning while the Street Crimes Unit investigated.

The victims, as well as several neighborhood residents, have helped police with the investigation, Friend said.

"That's not very common in gang-related violence," Friend said, adding the cooperation may be the break investigators need.

Police ask anyone with information about the shooting to call the investigations division at 420-5820 or the anonymous tip line at 420-5995.