1 dead, 3 injured in southwest Santa Rosa shooting
Just over an hour after Santa Rosa Police and Fire personnel tried to shut down an illegal Fourth of July fireworks show in southwest Santa Rosa late Sunday, a burst of gunfire rang out killing one and critically injuring two others.
The barrage of bullets, which also wounded a fourth person who is expected to recover, peppered surrounding vehicles, shattering rear windows and pitting windshields.
Believed to be gang-related, the drive-by shooting occurred just after midnight during what police described as an “unofficial block party” where illegal fireworks were being set off.
Dozens of Fourth of July revelers had jammed the street to watch the illegal fireworks displays which had been taking place since Sunday afternoon.
As of Monday night, no arrests had been made in the shootings.
Javier Montes-Medina, 35, of Santa Rosa died at the scene, police said.
A 29-year-old woman and a 17-year-old girl remained hospitalized Monday night with critical injuries.
A 16-year-old boy was also wounded in the shooting, but his injuries are not life-threatening, said Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Chris Mahurin, who added that all of the injured are Santa Rosa residents.
Investigators have not determined whether the shooting was a targeted or indiscriminate attack.
At 12:12 a.m. Monday, police received a 911 call reporting gunfire near Beachwood Drive at Myrtlewood Drive, in the neighborhood just west of Highway 101 and north of Hearn Avenue.
Police cordoned off the area, south of Barham Avenue, as investigators interviewed witnesses Monday morning.
In the hours leading up to the gunfire, dozens of holiday revelers, including children, were in the neighborhood celebrating and taking part in illegal fireworks displays.
Shortly after midnight, multiple people in a silver Honda Accord drove through the “unofficial block party” on Beachwood Drive and witnesses told investigators they “heard gang challenges coming from the car,” Mahurin said.
At least one person opened fire from inside the Honda, shooting at people in a front yard in the 1500 block of Beachwood, where the fireworks were being lit. Police have not determined how many people were in the car.
Three people in the yard, Montes-Medina and the two teenagers, were hit by bullets in the initial gunfire, Mahurin said, adding that police are investigating whether Montes-Medina was the target of the attack.
Investigators do not believe the teenagers were intended victims.
At least one person fired back at the people inside the Honda as they began driving away, Mahurin said.
The 29-year-old woman was shot outside of a house several doors south of the one where the initial victims were hit. Police also believe she was not an intended victim.
More than 20 bullets were fired in total, police said.
The driver then crashed into a parked car on Beachwood and the people inside the Honda took off running, Mahurin said.
Police towed the Honda several hours later.
Investigators, on Monday, were working to piece together the events leading up to the shooting, Mahurin said.
Around 11 p.m. Sunday, police responded to a complaint about fireworks in the area and reported seeing at least 75 people outside, he added.
It was one of about 400 fireworks complaints and 300 additional police calls that streamed in between 6 p.m. Sunday and 2:30 a.m. Monday at the Santa Rosa Police Department, he said. The department sent two officers, each paired with a fire inspector, out to respond to fireworks complaints throughout the night.
Officers responding to the complaint near Beachwood and Myrtlewood said people in the neighborhood were “hostile” toward them, Mahurin said. The officers left without citing or arresting anybody for using fireworks.
“It was unsafe for officers to try to break it up without bringing in massive amounts of support,” Mahurin said. “We just didn’t have the ability to do that.”
The fireworks displays began around 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoon and were “absolutely out of control,” said neighbor Chris Howell, who slept through the shooting and learned about it when he woke up Monday morning.
Fireworks are common in the neighborhood, Howell said, with people lighting them off nearly every weekend. On Saturday night, the explosions lasted until 2 a.m.
“You hear gunshots every once in a while,” said Howell, who has lived in the neighborhood 22 years.
Francisco Lugo Escobar, who also lives nearby and heard about the gunfire from a neighbor several hours later, wore earplugs Sunday night so he could sleep through the noise.
He said the neighborhood is often loud, with drivers on Beachwood commonly using the street as “a racetrack” and doing donuts at the intersections.
Howell said disturbances in the neighborhood have escalated during the coronavirus pandemic, with more people staying home from work and school.
The man who died did not live at the house where he was shot, but Mahurin said some of his family members did.
It was unclear whether the teenagers lived there, but they were also family members, he said.