Thursday, June 17, 2004

 

Dallas Cowboys and gangs in Oxnard

Ironically the Cowboys will have their training camp in a city where it is illegal to wear the Cowboys jersey.

Officials Seek Injunction Against Oxnard Gang
Citing growing violence, police and D.A. ask the court to set up a safety zone where members' behavior could be strictly controlled.
By Holly Wolcott
Times Staff Writer

March 25, 2004

Declaring a crisis sparked by unprecedented gang violence in recent months, the Ventura County district attorney and Oxnard police announced Wednesday that they are seeking a permanent injunction against the Colonia Chiques gang, which has terrorized the beachside city for more than three decades.

"The Colonia Chiques is the largest and most violent criminal street gang in Ventura County," Dist. Atty. Greg Totten said at a news conference at City Hall, where he was joined by Oxnard Police Chief Art Lopez and three dozen city and community leaders. "They are an imminent threat to the law-abiding residents of this city."

Totten and Lopez vowed to end the grip that the 1,000-member Chiques gang has on the city.

"They have preyed upon too many of our peaceful residents," Totten said. "They have to be suppressed."

The court order would be a shield for the community from ongoing violence, a tool for police to make more arrests and a warning to gang members that "law-abiding residents are taking back the streets," he said.

If approved by Superior Court Judge Fred H. Bysshe, the injunction will restrict the activities of gang members within a specified area, barring them from congregating in public, flashing gang signs, violating a 10 p.m. curfew and wearing gang attire, which includes Dallas Cowboys shirts, jackets and bandannas.

A hearing on the request is scheduled May 24.

In a 275-page affidavit filed with the court, authorities described the county's largest and oldest Latino gang as "urban terrorists" that have destroyed neighborhoods, families and businesses and forced residents to stay indoors in fear for their lives.

On Wednesday, Totten and Lopez said the gang has been involved in more than 2,000 incidents of criminal activity over the years, including numerous homicides, 400 violent assaults and 300 robberies.

Often, they said, the victims are hard-working, innocent field laborers.

"They are a pack of wolves," Lopez said of the Chiques. "They go out and they prey on people … and really have brought down our quality of life."

Although similar injunctions have been used in Los Angeles and other urban areas, authorities said the Oxnard case would be especially noteworthy because the injunction would cover more than a quarter of the city of 180,000.

The court order would establish a safety zone in a 6.6-square-mile expanse stretching from the Ventura Freeway to the Pacific Ocean.

The area would include a wide strip through the inner city and the Colonia neighborhood where authorities have documented hundreds of crimes by the gang, including involvement in 39 killings since 1992.

In other neighborhoods inside the proposed zone, residents have long complained about gang members who threaten pedestrians, urinate on lawns and spray graffiti everywhere.

"Parents can take their kids to the park again," said Karen Wold, one of two prosecutors who drafted the injunction. Violation of the injunction could result in a six-month jail term, officials said.

Although formal research for the injunction began last September, Lopez, a former chief deputy for the LAPD, said the effort was further fueled by the Oct. 11 slaying of Froylan Martinez, 16.

The teen, a football player at Pacifica High who had never been in trouble, was shot in front of his family's Colonia house while walking to a neighbor's birthday party.

After shooting the boy once, the gunman walked up to Martinez as he lay bleeding on the ground and shot him again, killing him.

There were several witnesses, but no one would cooperate with police for fear of retaliation by gang members. Authorities said the killer was a rival of the Chiques. Police believe Martinez was the victim of mistaken identity.

As police and prosecutors made the announcement Wednesday, patrol officers fanned out across the city to serve written notices of the injunction to as many gang members as they could find.

Paul Lemos, an Oxnard resident whose son's 2002 slaying remains unsolved, lauded officials for the injunction.

"This is a long time coming," Lemos told Lopez, adding that he had grown up in Colonia.

Other community members who attended the announcement also praised the action of law enforcement officials but said regular probation and parole supervision must continue, as well as drug rehabilitation and community programs for youth.

In the affidavit filed in support of the injunction, Oxnard Police Det. Neail Holland, a gang expert who helped draft the proposed injunction, wrote that the history of the gang dates to the 1970s with the start of one of the city's first car clubs, called the Eastside Classics.

Street racing, cruising and minor crimes evolved into major violence, which peaked that decade in 1976 when 15 slayings were reported, Holland wrote. In previous years, the homicide rate had been less than three annually.

By 1979, the number of homicides had reached 26, making it the city's deadliest year, records show.

In 2003, the second-worst year, 12 of the 23 slayings in Oxnard were linked to gang members as either suspects or victims.

In the 1990s, the Colonia Chiques gang allied itself with the state's largest and most powerful prison gang, the Mexican Mafia, also known as La Eme, Holland wrote. The Mexican Mafia, according to the detective, now controls nearly all of the illegal drug sales by the Colonia Chiques.

To illustrate that relationship, Holland related the story of Oxnard gang member Ralph Lopez. The 35-year-old was found shot to death in his car on Jan 22, 2003. Lopez, the detective said, had been linked to the 1993 killing of a rival gang member and the drug-related slaying of a La Eme member in Los Angeles.

Frustrated by years of retaliation killings between gangs and ongoing vandalism, drug sales and threats, Chief Lopez went to Totten last fall to seek assistance.

"Traditional law enforcement techniques alone are insufficient to halt the ongoing offensive and criminal behavior of Colonia Chiques gang members," Lopez wrote in his affidavit.

Staff writer Greg Griggs contributed to this report.


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