Four injured in west Santa Rosa park gang shooting

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The gunfire that shattered a warm spring night at a busy Santa Rosa park was a brazen gang-related attack by a single gunman targeting a lone individual, but it unleashed a hail of bullets that struck three others, including an 11‑year‑old soccer player and a youth coach.

New details emerged Thursday about the scope of Wednesday evening’s violence that spilled over from West Ninth Street into Jacobs Park, where hundreds of people were enjoying an otherwise routine night playing and practicing soccer.

Santa Rosa police detectives and officers continued investigating but no arrests were reported as of Thursday night.

The three wounded bystanders — the boy and two men, 45 and 20 — were at the park to play soccer but became caught in the 10 or so rounds aimed at a man fleeing down a West Ninth Street sidewalk. The shooting occurred after gang‑related comments were exchanged between the man and the shooter, who was in an SUV with at least one other person, Santa Rosa Police Lt. Ryan Corcoran said.

All four victims were hit by a single bullet, Corcoran said.

The intended victim, a 21-year-old man, suffered a serious back wound but improved Thursday and is now expected to survive, Corcoran said.

The three others are also expected to recover. The 20‑year‑old was treated for a grazing shot to his back and released but the others remained hospitalized Thursday. The boy suffered a pelvis injury and the 45‑year‑old man was hit in his calf.

Police initially didn’t know about a fourth victim until the 20-year-old man sought medical treatment hours after being wounded. The gunfire erupted about 7:35 p.m. on the edge of the park, which was teeming with people coming and going for youth soccer practice and adult scrimmages.

It sent bystanders ducking for cover behind a row of cars parked along the street.

Police called to the park, next to Lincoln Elementary School in west Santa Rosa, found three injured people and many people fleeing. The shooter and driver, in a dark‑colored SUV, had left the neighborhood.

Santa Rosa’s police chief Thursday called the attack an “oh my God event,” referring to the shock expressed by many at the number of victims wounded during a daylight shooting in an area filled with bystanders.

“It’s fairly brazen, in the middle of the park with multiple people at soccer events,” Chief Hank Schreeder said. “Typically with gang crime, gang members attack another gang member.

“It’s not often you have this,” he said. “Thankfully, even though those people were hurt, they weren’t more seriously hurt.”

In 2005, Josh Inong, along with his mother and four Elsie Allen High School classmates, was shot while in the yard of his South Davis Street home by two hooded gunmen after a graduation party.

The gunmen had stepped out of the shadows and opened fire as the teens returned home. Inong’s mom was inside the house, but also was hit in the ambush. All six survived the attack, which investigators called gang-related, though none of the victims had gang ties.

Police at the time said the shooting may have stemmed from a confrontation at another party.

Wednesday’s shooting puts a spotlight on gang violence but Schreeder said overall, the problem has lessened in the last two decades when a series of gang homicides and assaults prompted citizens to support a tax measure aimed at increasing anti‑gang initiatives.

The money has gone to increased police efforts as well as school, after‑school and various youth‑related community agency programs aimed at helping children and teens avoid getting pulled into a gang.

“We’ve done so much work in this area since early 2000,” Schreeder said.

Police have responded to 26 reported crimes or calls for assistance at Jacobs Park over the last three years, Corcoran said. Two involved gang‑related attacks: a stabbing last fall and this week’s gunfire, he said.

The most common call was for people drinking in the park, as well as calls about suspicious people or cars, and noise. Schreeder said the police calls to the park didn’t indicate it is a regular problem area, although he acknowledged the violence would understandably make people think twice about using the park.

Like many acts of gang‑related violence, this one started with an exchange of harsh words between occupants of an SUV and a man at the edge of the park.

After the verbal altercation, the SUV driver began to drive away. But the man at the edge of the park walked after the vehicle, witnesses told The Press Democrat.

The SUV driver quickly stopped near the intersection of West Ninth Street and Link Lane, where a passenger got out, armed with a handgun, and began walking back toward the victim, the lieutenant said.

“When the guy with the gun got out of the car, he (the victim) turned to run back toward the park,” Corcoran said.

The shooter targeted the one person, then returned to the SUV and the suspects drove out of the neighborhood.

The other victims weren’t together but happened to be in the same area as the intended victim, either arriving at the park or leaving the soccer fields, said Corcoran. Police continued to withhold their names because of the violent nature of the crime and the ongoing investigation.

The player and coach hit by gunfire were part of the Black Oaks Soccer Club, said Francisco Vallejo, president of the club, who was at the park but left just before the shooting.

Both were about 30 feet away from the gunman, he said.

On Thursday the two were recovering from surgery, Vallejo said.

The club was canceling all practices at the park until it is able to find an alternative venue, a move that affects about 150 children, he said.

“We don’t want to go back to that field,” Vallejo said. “This shooting is a wake‑up call for everybody.”

The intended victim was not affiliated with the soccer club, Vallejo said.

Dozens of people were interviewed during the night and “detectives are actively pursuing leads,” Santa Rosa Police Capt. John Cregan said.

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