A raging street war between two Hmong gangs has left three dead since Thanksgiving and spread hundreds of rounds of ammunition throughout Sacramento. In response, gang detectives have more than doubled their presence on the streets, to as many as 30 some nights. With nightly warrant sweeps and probation searches, they’re trying to get inside information on some of the most notoriously closed-mouth criminals in the area.
And Asian gangs are not the only concern.
In the past 12 months, other gang attacks have claimed the lives of a Sheldon High School student, a 21-year-old North Sacramento man and at least 18 others.
With approximately 5,000 gang members countywide, police, sheriff’s and probation officials are trying to stay ahead of what they say will be a greater crime wave come spring.
One in every five killings in Sacramento city and county last year—20 of 102 slayings—was gang-related, up from nine gang homicides in 2000.
In recent weeks, the focus has shifted to Asian gangs, particularly factions in Sacramento’s immigrant Hmong community.
While their overall numbers remain relatively low, Asian gangs have distinguished themselves by being increasingly brutal and bold—as evidenced by the Feb. 20 shooting near Florin Mall.
Pra Vang was sitting in a left-turn pocket, waiting to turn north on Stockton Boulevard from Florin Road when two men wearing red bandannas over their faces jumped out of a Toyota Camry, darted across two lanes of traffic and fired at least 14 rounds into Vang and his car. In the next lane, a charter bus filled with children from a local church watched the attack.
It was the latest in a series of killings that investigators trace to the Hmong New Year festival at Sacramento International Raceway on Thanksgiving Day. Detectives aren’t sure exactly what happened but suspect a relatively minor confrontation at the festival has evolved into a full-blown war.
Since the event, four gang members have been slain.
“These guys are nuts,” said Yen, pulling a spreadsheet of the homicide victims, suspects and associates he keeps tucked in the back seat for quick reference. “They go out in broad daylight in front of a bus and light up this guy.”