An 8-year-old girl is among the recent casualties of gang violence in Salinas.
Thursday, February 8, 2007
Maria Garcia looks at her youngest child’s face peeking out of a bundle of white hospital blankets. The 8-year-old girl sleeps quietly with her dazed eyes open. Three card-size images of the Virgin Mary rest above her bed in the San Jose hospital.
Garcia, a Salinas mother, pulls back a bed sheet and lifts a plastic tube attached to her daughter’s kidney. A few drops of reddish liquid trickle into a receptacle at the foot of her bed.
Family members say she has two or three months left of recovery. Three weeks ago she had two bullet holes in her small body. (The Weekly’s policy is to not identify by name minors who are victims of violent crimes.)
“No child deserves to be in a situation such as this.”
On Jan. 14, police say, a Norteño gang member shot the girl twice in the torso. The shooter opened fire on a car full of her friends and family members while they were in front of Garcia’s home.
Medics flew the 8-year-old by helicopter to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. There it was determined that the bullets had punctured one of her lungs and kidneys as well as her liver. Doctors operated on her twice, leaving a large incision on her abdomen.
Using a damp white cloth, Garcia pats the head of her daughter, who has a slight fever. The waves from the heart monitor pulsate above her. Five pouches of fluid hang on the side of the hospital bed.
Garcia says she is grateful her daughter is alive, but the situation is heartbreaking. “I feel sad,” Garcia says. “The guys who go out and do this stuff—they don’t know who they are hurting.”
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Garcia and her three children lived in a small, white duplex in East Salinas. The home is empty now—the incident prompted the family to leave—and a for-rent sign now hangs in the window.
The front door of the house opens to an alley behind the Quik Stop at the corner of Williams Road and Grandhaven Street. This area of the city, police say, is Sureño gang territory.
Blue tags and the number 13—Sureño signs—as well as some tags from the rival Norteños, cover the back of a building nearby.
Rosa Perez lives next door to where the shooting occurred with her 12-year-old daughter and elderly parents. Perez, who has lived on Haven Alley for 20 years, says she never lets her daughter go outside alone in the neighborhood.
Since the shooting, Perez makes it a point to take extra precautions. “I always make sure my door is locked and my daughter is away from the window,” she says, while standing behind a black metal screen door.
Only two blocks from Haven Alley, police arrested Abraham Cabrera for shooting the 8-year-old girl. Police say the 18-year-old man and other associates drove up beside the carload of kids and fired several shots. Salinas Police Sgt. Victoria Gray says the little girl was not likely the intended target.
Cabrera lived in a family apartment above an auto repair shop at 237 Williams Rd. Police found guns and ammo in the apartment. Gray says Cabrera is associated with Norteños.
The fact that Cabrera had a loaded weapon in his parents’ house is disheartening to Salinas Councilman Tony Barrera, whose district includes East Salinas. Barrera, who was sworn in to his first term in December, keeps in touch with the 8-year-old girl’s parents. He says he wants to rid nearby Closter Park of drug dealers.
Walking through the park on Towt Street wearing a green business suit, Barrera says families need to stand up to relatives who are gang members. Cabrera’s case may be another instance, he says, where the parents did not admit to themselves that their son was a gang member, and as a result didn’t intervene.
Gang members are tightly sown within the social fabric of the city, Barrera says.
“They live here,” he says. “They are in our neighborhoods. They are our relatives.”
The 8-year-old girl was the first of several victims of gang-related shootings in Salinas over the last month. An 18-year-old mother was shot in the head on Jan. 29 while driving on Highway 101 with her two young children in the backseat. She is still in the hospital.
The most recent shooting occurred on Feb. 4, when two rival groups exchanged gunfire on Acosta Plaza. A 26-year-old Norteño gang member was shot in his legs.
Police investigators haven’t pinpointed a reason for the spike in gang violence. “It just seems like there is no real explanation for it,” Gray says.
With the help of witnesses, police arrested Cabrera, the alleged shooter of the 8-year-old girl. But in typical gang-related shootings, nobody speaks out and the crime goes unsolved.
“We need to start reporting what we see, but we don’t because of fear of retaliation, because of fear in general,” Barrera says. “If we don’t get involved, the bullies keep on bullying us.”
Judith Arias was sitting in the car beside her 8-year-old sister when the little girl was shot. Even with life-threatening wounds, Arias says, her sister stayed strong. “She told me, ‘Put me down, I’ll walk to the hospital.’”
Arias, 16, is missing classes at Alisal High School to be at the hospital with her mother and brother. The family sleeps in a small waiting room with two leather chairs and blankets on the floor. Arias says she doesn’t know if her family will return to Salinas when her sister is out of the hospital.
Arias says her sister can talk now but can’t stand up yet. She also says doctors don’t know what fluid is draining from her kidney, and they want to do a CAT scan. But doctors expect the girl to fully recover.
“I’m just glad she is doing a little better,” Arias says. “The doctors told us that older people don’t even survive this.”
Arias says a teacher is going to start coming to the hospital so she doesn’t get too behind in her academics. The little girl is well missed at Alisal Community School, where she attended third grade.
The school of more than 600 students made get-well cards for her. Staff at the school also collected donations for the little girl’s mother, who used to work in a restaurant but can’t now because she is at the foot of her daughter’s hospital bed.
Principal Angelica Carrillo hopes the third-grader will come back to school when she’s healthy.
“It’s always hard to have a young person getting sick, let alone getting hurt in such a drastic way,” Carrillo says. “Definitely no child deserves to be in a situation such as this.”
THE FAMILY OF THE 8-YEAR-OLD GIRL HAS SET UP A BANK OF AMERICA ACCOUNT TO ACCEPT DONATIONS. THE ACCOUNT NUMBER IS 18666-01424 UNDER THE NAME CARMEN RAMIREZ. CONTACT MARIA GARCIA AT 794-9777.
|THE WEEKLY TALLY||$500||
The amount awarded in 1937 for first place at the first National Pro-Amateur Golf Championship in Rancho Santa Fe, California, claimed by Sam Snead. This year the winner will take home $990,000 of the $5.5 million total purse Source: AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.