A 24-year-old man was shot to death on Crest Avenue Friday
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An evening of apparent gang violence culminated in a homicide
Friday.
An evening of apparent gang violence culminated in a homicide Friday.

The shooting death of a 24-year-old man was the third gang-related violent crime in a four-hour period that also included physical assault of a 16-year-old male at Main and Hale avenues and a stabbing outside StriXe, police said.

Sampson said there will be additional police on duty this weekend to “try to keep a lid on retaliatory action.”

A suspect approached the shooting victim, known to the Crest Avenue Apartments community as “Green Eyes,” at about 11:30 p.m., and the two exchanged words about where they were from and what gang they might belong to when the suspect shot at the victim several times, striking him at point-blank range in the upper body, Cmdr. Joe Sampson said. The shooter, and possibly an accomplice, fled on foot possibly through Galvin Park. Officers originally thought the incident was a drive-by shooting but later determined the suspects were on foot.

Sampson said the victim and his girlfriend, who were visiting family there, were wearing red at the time. Red is affiliated with the Norteno gang.

Witnesses say “Green Eyes” was shot in the head; Sampson could not confirm this.

The shooter used a 9 mm handgun, and several casings were found on the ground.

It is unknown which gang the suspects may be affiliated with. Cmdr. David Swing said he didn’t know whether the apartment complex was more populated with any one gang, but said when he was on patrol the neighborhood leaned toward Norteno.

Morgan Hill Police had all detectives and the Street Crimes Team on the scene and had blocked off Crest at Main Avenue and at Berry Court as well. Residents were not being allowed into the neighborhood, and about six people stood outside the 7-Eleven convenience store about 1 a.m. on the corner awaiting access. By 9 a.m., Crest was clear again and candles sat at the mailbox in front of 17689 Crest, where the shooting took place.

Residents there said the victim’s name was Juan, but said they didn’t know his last name and knew him as “Green Eyes.” They said the shooting was not gang related.

Kristy Martinez, 19, said the victim, known to her as Juan, was 24 and like a cousin to her.

“He had been arrested. He spent his time in jail and when he got out he stayed away from all this stuff. But last night, it just caught up with him,” Martinez said.

Martinez said Juan lived in Hollister with his girlfriend but came up to Crest Avenue Apartments often. She said Juan was a great person, fun and always happy.

“We’re all his family here,” Martinez said.

She was in the laundry room when she heard three gunshots. She said she locked herself in for about 20 minutes and came out to see Juan on the ground and police and neighbors around. She said Juan was dead by the time the police arrived.

A woman living in a downstairs apartment there said she knew the victim only as “Green Eyes.”

“He was a very quiet and polite young man,” she said. “It was a shame. The first thing I thought of was his parents. They were really close to him, they were always trying to help him out. He was very attached to his mother.”

Detective Rick Chaeff of the Santa Clara County Coroners Office said the victim’s name would not be released today, and that it may be several days until it is.

Before the shooting, police responded to an 8:15 p.m. call from parents who say their 16-year-old son was skateboarding at Main and Hale avenues when he was approached by an unidentified man who asked if he “gang-banged,” and, when the 16-year-old said no, beat him up. He suffered minor injuries, Sampson said.

Then, at about 9 p.m., Jerry Devito, 31, of Gilroy, was stabbed multiple times by four light brown skinned men while they yelled “Sur” in Spanish. The assault happened between StriXe Lounge and the Safeway store in Tennant Station, Sampson said. Devito, who has a red star tattoo on his face, took a taxi, to Saint Louise Regional Hospital, where they called Gilroy Police. Devito was treated for minor injuries, including a large laceration below his left arm pit, and released Saturday. The stabber has not been identified, Sampson said.

“We’re obviously trying to piece this together. There’s a gang thread through the whole thing,” Sampson said, adding that the Street Crimes Team had no indication of impending gang violence. Likewise, the school resource officers, who sometimes anticipate weekend gang activity, saw no warning of violence to come, Sampson said.

“This one came out of the blue,” he said.

Just a few blocks east on Monterey Road, weekend revelry continued unabated.

Sarah Brodsky, 25, and friends were drinking at Legends Bar and Grill and heard nothing, not even the helicopters that circled over the downtown and west Morgan Hill area from about midnight to 1 a.m.

“Wow. That’s crazy,” the San Martin resident said as she stood outside the bar with friends. About 25 bar patrons milled around Legends and M&H Tavern across the street. “I’m not surprised though. There’s a lot of gang violence around here.”

Morgan Hill Police were supplemented with San Jose Police and Santa Clara County Sheriffs Officers, including a helicopter and a K-9 unit. Morgan Hill’s own K-9 unit, Pax, was unavailable as his handler is recovering from an injury.

The full investigative team will be back Monday, he said.

Friday night’s violence comes after a relatively mild summer with few violent crimes, Sampson said.

The last homicide in Morgan Hill was almost four years ago to the day. Luis Santos Bautista, 19, of Gilroy, was shot and killed on Sept. 30, 2005, behind the Safeway grocery store in Tennant Station. Bautista was suspected to be a member of the Sureno gang. Anthony James Frausto, a Norteno, was convicted of the crime in 2007.

Anyone with details about this incident can call Morgan Hill Police at 779-2101.

Story will be updated as details become available.

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