Police: Gang member escaped rehab, shot rival


Santa Ana police said 28-year-old Bryant Islas did more than violate his parole by walking away from a state drug treatment facility. Investigators said he and two other suspects attempted to murder a gang rival in a near-fatal shooting.

"These individuals got out of the car, walked up to him and specifically shot him at least six times in the chest," said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna of the Santa Ana Police Department.

The shooting took place outside a Santa Ana continuation school on Bristol Street on Aug. 31. The 23-year-old man had gone to Taco Bell during his lunch break when Islas and two other men saw him, Bertagna said.

Detectives soon identified Islas as their suspect and later learned he never should have been on the streets in the first place.

"Our question would be, how does this individual leave this facility and return to this facility while in fact - we believe - using drugs, participating, in what could still be a homicide?" Bertagna said.

Islas' eight-hour absence was never reported to his parole officer or police. The next day, Islas left again, but didn't return.

Islas was tracked down and arrested Oct. 7, while the two other suspects are still at large.

Islas was placed into the Cactus Garden substance abuse program by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

Michael Woolbright the acting director at Cactus Garden, said their patients are closely watched, making if difficult to walk away unnoticed.

"We'll have them in the program, they'll have a monitor, they'll have a case worker and they'll have counselor," he said. "If they walk away we notify their parole officer."

The CDCR said it was not notified and have since removed seven other parolees from the center as a result of security procedure violations.

"CDCR is very concerned about what has happened and the actions and inactions of the staff at that facility," said Luis Patino, a CDCR spokesman.

Islas, a Santa Ana resident, pleaded not guilty last Wednesday to attempted murder, street terrorism and assault with a firearm. He also faces sentencing enhancements for gang activity, according to court records.

The victim, who nearly died twice in a hospital but is recovering.

A $50,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the other two suspects wanted in the shooting. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Santa Ana Police Gang Unit at (714) 245-8648.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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