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Gangs fight for territory in Azusa

August 19, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Violence may be on the rise in one Azusa neighborhood. Police say two gangs are fighting for territory in Atlantis Gardens and innocent people are caught in the crossfire. "It started as a tag group. We first started seeing them at the middle school years back. They came to the high school from 13, 14," said Officer Rocky Wenrick, Azusa Police Department.

Wenrick, who is with the Gang Specialist Unit, says a teen gang began as taggers, but just months ago the kids started to tangle with veteran thugs.

"They started with sticks and knives," said Wenrick. "They started getting shot at and they eventually armed themselves."

"We seen a car come here, somebody got out the car and then started shooting," said David Valencia, a neighbor, who showed five bullet holes along one home.

Neighbors also showed Eyewitness News photos of a bullet hole in a window where a baby was sleeping.

"There was two bullets that went in through my neighbor's window," said Stephanie, whose classmate was killed in a different shooting.

"I do not know what he was involved in, but all I know is I think he got shot and he passed away ... and he was my age," said Stephanie.

The Azusa Police Department was determined to send a message to gangs on Wednesday, hoping to shut down activity.

Before dawn, scores of officers from the Azusa Police Department and surrounding communities were on a hunt for evidence. Among the items seized was a 45 caliber semi-automatic weapon. In addition, six people were arrested, including two juveniles and four adults. Two of those arrested will be facing felony charges.

The suspects will be in court this week. Azusa police say they will be checking the semi-automatic weapon to see if it was used in any of the area shootings.

The crackdown came just weeks after two undercover officers were nearly hit.

Neighbors welcome the enforcement and hope it continues.

"Even though they're patrolling a lot and everything, we're still not comfortable because it might happen in a split second, like it did that day," said Valencia.

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