Gang feud may have sparked Sacramento shooting, police say

Sacramento police said Wednesday that it appears at least five shooters were fired during Sunday’s downtown massacre, which killed six people and wounded 12.

Officials are still trying to determine the motive for the violence, but said in a statement: “…it is becoming increasingly clear that gang violence is at the heart of this tragedy. While we are unable to provide details on the precise gang affiliation of the individuals involved at this time, gangs and gang violence are inseparable from the events that fueled these shootings.”

police photo of a man

Smiley Martin is seen in this February 6, 2022 booking photo provided by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, two days before he was paroled from Sacramento County.

(CDCR/Associated Press)

Police announced two arrests Tuesday, including a man with a lengthy rap sheet who is currently hospitalized with gunshot wounds. That man, Smiley Martin, 27, will be booked into the Sacramento County Main Jail on suspicion of “possession of a firearm by a prohibitive person and possession of a machine gun” as soon as his medical treatment is complete, the police said.

A law enforcement source said Smiley Martin and his brother are associated with a Crips gang, while others involved have ties to a Bloods gang that is historically a rival.

Martin is the brother of another suspect, Dandrae Martin, arrested a day earlier on suspicion of assault with a firearm and being a felon in possession of a weapon.

Police photo of another man

Dandrae Martin is seen in this undated photo provided by the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry.

(Arizona Department of Corrections / Associated Press)

Police also announced a third arrest Tuesday, 31-year-old Daviyonne Dawson, who was seen carrying a gun after the shooting but did not actually shoot. Dawson is not accused of participating in the melee, but faces charges of being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm. He had been released on bail Tuesday afternoon.

“This downtown tragedy is a very public example of what families in many of our neighborhoods know all too well,” Sacramento Police Chief Kathy Lester said in a statement Wednesday. “The suffering inflicted by gang violence is not limited to gang members. It is spilled to claim and destroy innocent lives and harm our entire community.”

Neighborhood violence, fueled by gangs, has plagued Sacramento for years. But in the capital city, that gang violence is often based on loyalties to local rappers, including Mozzy, who has achieved national success.

In 2017, gang violence sparked by diss tracks (videos or songs that speak ill of others) led to a series of shootings that prompted the City Council to invest millions in neighborhood violence prevention programs, including those that They put formerly incarcerated people into the communities where they had previously lived in an attempt to act as ambassadors of peace.

At the time those programs were established, they were intended to target about 50 black and Latino youth and children who were believed to be at increased risk of violence, based on community input, law enforcement analysis, and other factors.

While the pandemic took many of those local neighborhood arguments out of the public sphere, they never went away. Zach Eaton, a spokesman for the Sacramento Police Department and a former gang investigator, said the city had “some longstanding gang disputes.”

Eaton said investigators did not know if the current situation had any link to the rap disputes that led to the latest wave of violence, but added that “investigators are still working from that angle.”

Even before police confirmed gang involvement on Wednesday, violence prevention advocates lamented the groups allegedly involved in Sunday’s carnage.

“Street politics has shrunk to show its ugly face downtown,” said Berry Accius, whose Voice of the Youth leadership program focuses on gun violence prevention. He added that gang culture is becoming increasingly commercialized and glorified, and must end.

“We have so much diligence and energy when it comes to uncovering a killer cop, but we lack that same kind of energy and passion when it comes to our own,” Accius said. “The negativity and the violence in our community, if we could change that, it would probably fix a lot of the other issues that we have that are layered.”

As police proceed, their complex criminal investigation involves interviews with dozens of witnesses, reviews of camera footage, and the processing of more than 100 shell casings littering the sidewalk, street, and nearby buildings. Eaton said detectives are also reviewing more than 170 videos and social media posts submitted by the public.

Among them is one published a few hours before the shooting in which Smiley Martin appears. wielding a stolen fully automatic weapon later found at the crime scene, according to police sources. That post has since been removed from social media.

Smiley’s brother, Dandrae, appeared in Sacramento Superior Court Tuesday afternoon on a single charge of unlawful possession of a weapon. He was wearing an orange jumpsuit and had his back to the media who were there to photograph him.

He was represented by one of Sacramento’s top defense attorneys, Linda Parisi, appointed to the case due to overload in the public defender’s office. Parisi asked that the case continue without a guilty plea, and the court ordered Martin to return on April 26. He will remain in custody.

Outside the courthouse, Parisi called Martin’s mood “very gloomy,” adding: “This is obviously very serious.” Parisi said he was waiting to see if there were any more arrests in the incident and what the final charges might be for his client, and he spoke out against gun violence.

“It’s more than just the criminal justice system. As a community, we must address gun violence,” he said. “We are failing everyone. We are failing our young people.”

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, a longtime advocate for gun control, touched on a similar theme Tuesday, announcing that he will join legislative leaders and criminal justice reform advocates on Wednesday to call for “investments immediate and substantial crime prevention and healing services for crime victims.

In an interview, Steinberg said Sacramento has spent tens of millions of dollars on “early intervention and gang prevention” but needs to do even more. “And we need to help law enforcement officials get more illegal guns off the street.”

On Wednesday, Steinberg joined social justice groups and two Los Angeles Democrats, state Sen. María Elena Durazo and Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, in calling for a $3 billion investment in crime prevention. “California must take even bolder action now to meet the needs of our state’s most vulnerable communities who, two years into the pandemic and related economic hardship, are struggling harder than ever,” the group said in a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders.

Just steps from the scene of the crime, lawmakers on Capitol Hill promised to do more to address gun violence in a state that already has the strictest gun laws in the country. “Our message to California is simple,” Sen. Bob Hertzberg said Tuesday. “The Legislature will act to stop this plague of gun violence. We have to.”

He added: “Let me tell you something, if it takes another 107 gun laws to stop this senseless gun violence, it’s the right thing to do.”

As lawmakers debated, relatives mourned their loved ones, and police continued to process evidence, social media posts began to circulate about the violence, including from some of those allegedly implicated as perpetrators.

In one on Facebook, posted shortly before 5 a.m. Monday, Dandrae Martin, who was allegedly injured in the melee, offered a status update that read, “Shh, I got hit…” In the comments, the friends asked the status of his brother. Smiley and said they were praying for him.

According to social media accounts, one of those shot dead, Joshua Hoye-Lucchesi, 32, appeared to be a friend of the Martins and posted a photo with Smiley last month.

Hours before the shooting, Hoye-Lucchesi posted videos on Instagram showing him and others brandishing weapons, including a pistol with a red laser.

In another post, a graphic YouTube video that was posted Monday apparently showed the aftermath of the shooting. Police officers tried to treat people lying in the street, while friends and others gathered around.

“Please tell me what to do,” a woman pleaded with an officer, kneeling over a body. “I’ll help you.”

“Help me turn it over,” the officer replied. He later said that they needed the fire department to respond.

The person narrating the video said he heard “like 70 shots, 80 shots.” Along the street, people were shouting at each other and asking for help.

The video showed at least five people on the ground.

“Breathe, mate,” one person said. “Keep breathing.”

Nearby, a CHP officer checked a woman’s pulse. She lay completely still.

A little further away, an officer asked someone to look anywhere else the victim might have been hit.

“There are dead people everywhere,” said the man recording the video.

Chabria and Garrison reported from Sacramento; Mejia and Winton reported from Los Angeles. Times staff writers Jim Rainey in Los Angeles and Hannah Wiley in Sacramento contributed.

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