Deadly gang violence never far away

Family grieves Thursday over Joey Mendoza. Sentinel photo/Shmuel Thaler

Gang violence is a scourge and blight on the community.

Sadly, it almost always is out of sight, out of mind for many people.Except when it involves kids.

So when a 13-year-old boy is gunned down in cold blood, shot twice in the back, just a few blocks from Santa Cruz’s main tourist area, the level of horror and demand for answers ramps up, as it should.

Never mind that the child, according to police, had gang ties, strange as that may seem for someone so young. Police say that increasingly gangs are going after younger kids, finding fresh recruits within a vulnerable population. The murdered boy, Joey Mendoza, who lived with family on Bixby Street, had attended a local middle school. As of this writing no suspects have been identified, though local law enforcement believes the killers are connected to Watsonville-area gangs.

Joey Mendoza’s distraught mother told reporters her son was not affiliated with gangs — an understandable assertion that goes against what police say is documented evidence that he was. In gang cases, parents are often in the dark about what is going on with their children.

Inevitably, a gang killing in Santa Cruz gets more attention than one in, say, Watsonville. Many Santa Cruz County residents think most gang violence occurs in the South County, and while there is an unacceptable level of gang-related shootings, stabbings and other retribution there, the rest of the county is hardly immune.

On Oct. 16, 2009, 16-year-old Tyler Tenorio was stabbed to death in a gang-related altercation on the streets of Santa Cruz. The resulting community uproar ended up with various promises and pledges to not only crack down on gangs in the city, but to provide alternatives in the form of sports and after-school programs for at-risk kids.

Two men have been convicted of manslaughter in the Tenorio killing, with two more suspects still being sought.

A little more than six months after the Tenorio killing, 19-year-old  Carl Reimer was shot to death near a Westside Santa Cruz apartment complex . No one has been charged with his murder. Police believe the shooter was a local gang member who mistook Reimer, who had no known gang ties, for a rival member.

Sentinel files show 13 suspected or confirmed gang killings in our small county since 2010.

As we’ve written on numerous occasions over the past few years, the roots of gang violence run deep and are not easily pulled out. The solutions have ranged from community law enforcement task forces to more after-school programs to better job opportunities for youths to intervention when early signs of gang involvement are spotted. It’s far easier to turn around a gang wannabe than an entrenched banger.

Getting parents, including single moms, to recognize the signs and then to seek help, while ending the culture of denial also is part of the solution.

Even then, it’s an uphill battle. The child killed Wednesday night was shot while returning to his neighborhood from a county schools’ sponsored football practice, according to family members.

In another irony, within moments of the shooting, a gang task force vehicle with police officers from Watsonville and Santa Cruz was on the scene; at least one task force member administered CPR to the victim, to no avail.

Will the community be outraged over the death of a 13 year old who, according to police, was already involved in gangs?

Local history says, for a while. Then public interest will dwindle — until the next time.

This post is the Santa Cruz Sentinel Editorial for Aug. 10, 2012

This entry was posted in Crime, education, Health, History, In the spirit, Journalism, Local news, Opinion. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Deadly gang violence never far away

  1. Beth says:

    Why did the county sponsor a football practice for a 13 year old which ended at 10:20 p.m.?

  2. Beth says:

    My mistake. It was over about 8.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is a tragedy.u00a0 nnMy question is how can a parent say that their child is not involved in gangs, when it has been so documented by police?u00a0 I would imagine that the police would notify the parents, give legal/criminal advice, avenues to deal with it?u00a0 Am I the only one confused?

  4. Saddened says:

    And our (lack of) gun control laws? And the NRA? Sadly, we are a trigger happy society. nu00a0

  5. Imaham says:

    u00a0The NRA has nothing to do with gangs as much as you would like to place blame there.u00a0 Nor do a lack of gun laws.u00a0 When people wake up and understand that the criminal element is going to have firearms regardless of how many laws we pass then perhaps we can have dialog on the subject.u00a0 Until then, it is nothing more than misdirected hyperbole.

  6. siddhartha1212 says:

    Maybe when our elected and appointed Surf City leaders start finally, nfor the first time, to respect our laws and rights as legal citizens andn residents and their oaths of office to us all to do exactly that and nprotect us and our community as their first order of business even nbefore their so important pc political agenda instead of making up and nfollowing their own…n …like for example, Surf City’s 1981 and nown irrational, dangerous, deadly, and counterproductive “Sanctuary City nlaw” and related law enforcement policies and directives…n this situation may change for the better.n We haven’t tried that very simple and logical measure yet, Folks…?n Maybe that’s what we need to give peace a chance and finally end these too many and so oft repeated stories and tragedies?n

  7. Linda Ponzini says:

    “Getting parents, including single moms, to recognize the signs and then to seek help, while ending the culture of denial also is part of the solution.”nnThis is probably the single most important factor. u00a0Denial is always part of this picture. u00a0Every single gang shooting, stabbing, arrest, etc. is accompanied by the mother’s anguished denial. u00a0 So sad. u00a0 u00a0

  8. Smarnold70 says:

    Lack of gun control laws? Are you serious? This kid had gang ties, according to our police department, and he was shot by gang members. I am willing to bet money that the shooters did not march into Outdoor World and purchase the firearms which they killed this kid with. I’m willing to bet also that they more than likely have a criminal background which would prohibit them from legally purchasing a firearm.nnI’ll give you this much; it took almost 2 full days after this tragedy for some moron to blame gun laws and the NRA, neither of which had anything to do with this.u00a0

  9. Disabuser says:

    The Sentinel article state Mendoza had been invited to join the PRIDE program. Elsewhere I read that the program involves the kid’s parents. So were the parents part of the invitation or made aware of it? Was the help Mendoza received from the COE also connected to his suspected gang involvement? If so did his parents get any notification about that?u00a0u00a0

  10. John W Davis says:

    I think it was a mistake for the police to lob that bomb into this tragedy, inviting our confusion, or our dismissal. ‘Involvement’ could mean he was a hit man or he was friends with someone who was more active in a gang. Either way, their careless mention of gang involvement is clearly a distraction that takes our attention away from the fact that defenseless people are murdered on the streets of Santa Cruz, and we – as the Editor sees – seek a reason to ignore it until the next one.u00a0

  11. Anonymous says:

    I did not see this blog story until after I had posted to the original lead story of the day.u00a0 However, in commenting on that story, I feel that my comments truly belong here instead of there, so I am reposting it.u00a0 I apologize in advance if I broke a rule.n_______nTo say that this young man could not be a gang member at 13 is preposterous! nQUOTE: u201cWeu2019ve have multiple contacts with him for gang-related activity,u201d nHowever, a more concerning question might be… Was this young man nmurdered because gang members thought that police may have turned this n13 year old into a police asset? ________nSTORY: Martinez said the boy nwas clearly at risk, and heu2019d even been invited to join the departmentu2019s PRIDE n(Personally Responsible Individual Development in Ethics) program. Martinez said nhaving this happen to a kid that officers had tried to help is nupsetting.u201cWeu2019re reassessing to determine if our outreach efforts are as neffective as they could be,u201d Martinez said._____As plain old nordinary citizens, most of us don’t think like criminals. When we read these nstories, we tend to think with emotions instead of cold hard facts or criminal nsuposition as a basis for our comments. Understand that there is evil in the nworld. It would be utopian great if there wasn’t; but that would be thinking with nemotion-n’es paux?

  12. Anonymous says:

    In my mind I would propose that you “may” have a spelling error.u00a0 While it is correct to say Surf City 1981, I would suggest that your lead sentence should read….”Serf City” when refering to city leaders who have taxed and spent many of us into serfdom.

  13. james says:

    You urge people to seek help when gang activity is presented. Unless you can be very specific about what help actually helps then the advice is chimerical. What specific help works to extricate one from a gang? What specific help discourages membership? Jobs is a suggestion often made; but why does an uneducated,unskilled Mexican or Mexican American gang member forego a lucrativeu00a0 drug dealing job for a beginning job?Many gang leaders are already in prison so threat of punishment is ineffective. Love of country? I know of no effective method short of one on one continual personal contact which if not carried out by the family where 3rd generation gangsters are not uncommon,is not as yet feasible. Specifics anyone!u00a0

  14. SCMartinez says:

    u00a0Hi Beth, Practice is over at 7pm and sometime runs over, but never past 7:30. Just thought I’d share with you. This subject is much greater, than timing.n

  15. SCMartinez says:

    Will the community be outraged over the death of a 13 year old who, according to police, was already involved in gangs?nnLocal history says, for a while. Then public interest will dwindle u2014 until the next time.nu00a0—nDon this struck me, Such a strong statement should be followed with a call to action, I wish you could have included places our community could get involved with to help with this issue.

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