Alleged gang-related attack in shopping center sends two teens
to San Jose hospitals with gunshots
By Matt King and Kristen Munson, Staff Writers
Gilroy – A single shotgun blast sent two youths to the hospital Friday afternoon in what police are calling a gang-related shooting in the parking lot of the D Mart on Chestnut Street.
The youths, ages 14 and 16, had finished shopping at the D Mart and were about to get into a car when they were shot from behind with pellets fired from a shotgun, according to Lorie Bustinza, a cousin of one of the victims, who was strapping her toddler daughter into the car when the attack occurred.
Bustinza said the attack was unprovoked. It was unclear whether the victims were trying to flee when they were shot.
“They were just acting stupid,” Bustinza said of the suspects. “They assumed we were going to start some s— with them so they shot at us.”
The suspects fired one round of buckshot and then took off in a car Bustinza described as an early ’90s tan Honda Accord. At press time, Gilroy police had not apprehended any suspects, but were looking for two to four Hispanic males aged 16 to 24.
“The only thing I know at this point is that it does appear to be gang related,” Gilroy Police Sgt. Greg Flippo said.
The shooting occurred just after 4pm, in a parking lot filled with afternoon shoppers. Minutes after the shooting, the parking lot was swarming with more than 20 police officers and emergency personnel.
The 16-year-old victim lay on his right side, black sneakers in a pile, as Gilroy Fire Department paramedics attended to his more than 20 pellet wounds. Police blocked off the exits of the parking lot, as crowds gathered around the yellow police tape.
Scores of onlookers lined up in front of the D Mart to watch the youths airlifted to San Jose hospitals. Police were talking to several people at the scene they believed may have been associated with the suspects.
According to police, the suspects and victims exchanged angry words before the shooting, but it was not clear what was said. One of the suspects fired one shot of buckshot, with six pellets hitting the 14-year-old in the back and about 20 striking the back, side and left shoulder of the 16-year-old.
“He got the worst of it. He’s got probably more than 20 pellets in the back,” said Captain Art Amaro of the Gilroy Fire Department. “He’s not doing that great, but he’s stable. He’s been talking to police.”
The 16-year-old underwent surgery Friday evening at San Jose Regional Medical Center. Valley Medical center would not release the status of the 14-year-old.
Family members of the victims said the shooters were members of a Sureño street gang, but denied that the victims were associated with a rival Norteño gang. One of the victims was wearing red shorts, the Norteño color.
Flippo said acts of gang violence often happen to victims who are not involved in gang activity.
“Anytime you have gang retaliation it doesn’t mean the individual targeted were associated with a gang,” Flippo said. “It could be they were construed as being in a gang.”
Family members of the victims said the D Mart parking lot is a popular cruising spot for Sureño gang members. They said Sureños, who are Mexican immigrants, consider the D Mart their territory, and try to intimidate the native Gilroy Norteños.
“They think they own this place,” said Raymond Bustinza, the 14-year-old’s grandfather. “They don’t like guys from [Gilroy] to shop there.”
Enma Carrasco, who was at the D Mart buying a fairy Halloween costume for her 16-year-old daughter Ingrid, said she won’t let her daughter attend school rallies and other events because gang fights often break out. She speculated the shooting may have been the result of an earlier altercation at Friday afternoon’s homecoming events. The younger victim, at least, is a Gilroy High School student.
“Every time there’s a rally, something happens,” Carrasco said. “She can’t go to the rally because we know what happens.”
Police said they knew of no incidents at Friday’s homecoming events.
Flippo said that police do not consider the D Mart an unusually violent place or the site of regular gang violence.
“It’s a business and you’re going to have Norteños and Sureños coming to shop,” Flippo said. “If things are happening here, they’re not being reported to the police.”