Sacramento Shooting Was Gang Gunfight, Police Say

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — The mass killing that left six people dead and 12 wounded outside bars just blocks from California’s Capitol last weekend was a gunfight involving at least five shooters from rival gangs, Sacramento police said Wednesday.

According to police, at most five gunmen were identified by them but it’s possible there could have been many more. Only two suspects — both brothers wounded by gunfire — have been arrested in connection with the shooting and, so far, only face firearms charges.

“We’re still working through … who the actual shooters are in the case,” Sgt. Zach Eaton stated.

Until Wednesday’s announcement, police had been silent on what led to the shooting that erupted early Sunday as bars were letting out. As terrified residents fled for their lives, a torrent of more than 100 shots echoed throughout the streets.

Two gangs, according to the police, were implicated. The police declined to reveal more or name any gangs, or provide details about the suspects.

Experts believe that it could be a bloody feud if the gangs are to blame.

In 20 years of researching gangs in Los Angeles, Alex Alonso said he can’t remember a gang-related shooting with such a high body count.

“It’s extremely rare that a gang shooting happened as the way this one is being characterized,” Alonso said. “It’s extremely rare to have that happen in a public place with so many victims.”

Gregory Chris Brown is a Fullerton criminal justice professor from California State University. He said that gangs target their rivals in drive by shootings, with less victims but more innocents.

The location of the Sacramento shooting – in a bustling area of watering holes near the entertainment district — was incidental to whatever fueled the fight.

“If rival gang members see each other it doesn’t matter if they’re in the Capitol of the United States of America,” Brown said. “If you see a rival gang member and you’re going to attack them, it doesn’t matter where they are.”

According to him, the high number of casualties is due to weapons with large capacities in crowded areas.

Berry Accius, founder of Voice of the Youth who leads gun intervention and prevention programs and offered his services to counsel families who lost loved ones in the shooting, criticized police for characterizing the crime as gang-related, which he said will lead some to “think Black people.”

According to him, people will look at the photographs of Black men and women who were taken and assume that they are part of a gang. Then they’ll wonder why there’s no gang member downtown.

“That’s the narrative we don’t need at this particular time,” Accius said. “This idea that we’re going to put blame to one demographic of folks and blame them for the violence that ensued.”

Bill Sanders, Cal State LA’s criminologist, stated that he wants to see more evidence that the shooting was linked to gangs, which is often used by police to garner support. Sanders said that most gang shootings occur in what is considered to be gang areas and they are less common.

“If you looked at a map of gang homicides in the city — or any city — over time, you’d see the same areas lighting up — meaning that’s where they occur. If these guys were white, this wouldn’t be considered gang related — not even for a minute.”

Witnesses who provided nearly 200 photos, videos and other information to assist the investigation were given credit by authorities.

Police wanted to know if the handgun stolen at the crime scene was involved in the attack. This weapon can fire automatic bullets.

A law enforcement official said that they were also looking into whether the brother Smiley Martin’s gun, which he displayed on a video of himself, was involved in the shooting. Although the official was informed about the investigation, he was not allowed to discuss specific details publicly and spoke under anonymity.

Martin and his brother were both among the victims of gunfire as bar closed at 2 AM Sunday and crowds flooded into the streets.

Johntaya Alexandr, 21; Melinda Davis 57; Yamile Martinez -Andrade 21. The three men killed were Sergio Harris, 38; Joshua Hoye-Lucchesi, 32; and De’vazia Turner, 29.

Apart from the Martin brothers and their two children, 10 others were also injured. Two people were still in hospital with gunshot wounds.

Smiley Martin will be charged with possessing a firearm by an unprohibited person as well as possession of a weapon. He remained hospitalized and it wasn’t clear if he had an attorney who could speak for him.

His brother, Dandrae Martin, 26, was arrested as a “related suspect” and appeared briefly Tuesday in Sacramento Superior Court on a charge of being a convict carrying a loaded gun.

His attorney stated that he did not plead guilty and would continue to wait for more severe charges to determine whether to release him.

Both of the men have criminal records. Smiley Martin was freed in February, having served about half of the 10-year term for beating his girlfriend. He was denied parole last year after prosecutors said he “clearly has little regard for human life,” documents show.

Darrell Steinberg, Sacramento mayor, questioned the reason the brothers were out on the streets.

“Those questions need to be answered and they will be answered over the days ahead,” Steinberg said.

The weapon charge was filed Tuesday against a 31 year-old male who was seen to be carrying a firearm shortly after the shooting. Police said they don’t believe his gun was used in the shooting.


This is the correct version. Smiley Martin spent only half of his 10-year sentence in prison. It was not nearly two years.


Melley reported in Los Angeles. This report was contributed by Stefanie Dzio and Christopher Weber of the Associated Press in Los Angeles, Don Thompson, Michael Balsamo in Washington, Michael Balsamo at Sacramento, Michael Balsamo at Washington, Michael Balsamo at Washington, Jacques Billeaud, Phoenix, Rhonda Shafner, News Researcher, New York City.

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