2 shot to death in latest Mission violence
Steve Rubenstein,Tyche Hendricks, Chronicle Staff Writers
Friday, September 5, 2008
(09-05) 17:47 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- Two friends who had tried to escape troubled lives by finding work at Goodwill Industries were shot and killed late Thursday on the edge of San Francisco's Mission District, the latest spasm of violence in an area where six people have been slain in the past two weeks.
Police announced several measures Friday to respond to the violence, including adding foot and car patrols to Mission District streets and deploying more gang task force members to the neighborhood. Community groups active in the Mission said they would also be working to head off what they feared could be more violence this weekend.
The slain men were with a woman at 24th and Utah streets about 9:45 p.m. Thursday when two men walked up and opened fire, hitting all three, police said. The gunmen got into a waiting minivan that drove east on 24th Street, investigators said.
The shooting happened a couple of doors down 24th Street from where one of the victims, 19-year-old Noel Espinoza, lived. Goodwill said the other slain man was a co-worker, Matthew Solomon, 23, of San Francisco. The woman, a 22-year-old San Francisco resident whose name was withheld, is expected to survive.
The double slaying happened about 3 1/2 hours after someone opened fire on a man and a woman sitting in a car with a 4-month-old girl in the backseat at 18th and Bryant streets, police said. The two adults were seriously wounded, but the child was not hit.
Police did not release descriptions of the attackers in either shooting or details of the investigations.
Community members believe both incidents were gang-related, with the second shooting a retaliation for the first one, said Santiago Ruiz, executive director of Mission Neighborhood Centers, who has led violence prevention efforts for more than three decades.
"In the last four weeks, the level of violence has been unprecedented," said Ruiz, who for the first time canceled his agency's after-school program Friday for fear of violence. "It's sad to see this total disregard for life. Not knowing who might be walking by, it raises a certain amount of fear."
Police step up patrols
Authorities said they would take several steps in response to the violence, including increasing beat patrols along Mission Street, adding cars to parts of the Mission and Ingleside neighborhoods and doubling the number of school resource officers at Mission High School.
"The violence in the Mission is unacceptable," Police Chief Heather Fong said at a press conference. "People involved in gang and drug activity have no regard for the community."
The slain men worked at Goodwill's store and processing center at Mission and Van Ness Avenue and were friends, said chief executive officer Deborah Alvarez-Rodriguez. They had recently been promoted to permanent positions, and Alvarez-Rodriguez praised them as "exemplary employees who had really turned their lives around."
Solomon had been featured as employee of the month in a recent company newsletter and Espinoza was scheduled to receive the same honor in the next issue, she said.
In the publication, both men said they had been in trouble with authorities and that their work at Goodwill had helped them find new directions.
"I did a lot of things in the past that got me into trouble," Solomon said. "When I came to Goodwill in August 2007 I was on parole, homeless and hardly involved with my two children. I was like a part-time father that wandered in and out of their lives."
'Helped me become a man'
Solomon said his work at Goodwill had "helped me become a man and provide for my two sons, Jayvion and Makai."
Espinoza, in his newsletter interview, said he had been referred to Goodwill after being arrested for selling drugs. Under a program for first-time offenders, the charges against Espinoza would have been dropped if he completed a year of work, training and community service.
"Now I see that I'm capable of much more than selling drugs on the street," Espinoza said.
Hours after the shootings, Mission District parents and community leaders started reaching out to youths at risk of being caught up in a cycle of retributive violence.
Near where Espinoza and Solomon were shot, a group of young people, some heavily tattooed, kept vigil beside a makeshift shrine.
An older woman drove up, got out of her car and approached the group urgently.
'Don't take revenge'
"I come to you as a mother. Please listen to me," Marta Gonzalez said in Spanish as she passed out fliers calling for peace in the neighborhood. "I have a son, too, just like you. Please, I implore you, don't take revenge. "
Gonzalez said she was a friend of Espinoza's mother and that she was heartbroken when she heard of his killing. She decided to circulate the fliers on her way to work.
"It's the mothers who suffer," said Gonzalez, who said she has two sons, ages 18 and 20. "There's this rivalry between the Latinos who were born here and the kids born (in Mexico and Central America). It's a stupid war. They need to put down the guns and pick up a book and a pencil."
Her flier called on parents to wear white shirts and gather for a peace rally at noon Sunday at 24th and Mission streets.
A few doors down from the shrine, in a darkened upstairs flat, Marta Espinoza sobbed at the death of her son. She was comforted by her sister and other relatives.
"All the family is coming to be together," Espinoza said. She said she couldn't say more. "It's too fresh, too new," she said.
Groups take to streets
Across the Mission, community organizations that work with teenagers - from Instituto Familiar de la Raza to Arriba Juntos - planned an intensive effort to try to interrupt the violence.
"The weekend's coming, and as we speak, outreach workers are out there trying to increase the peace," said Ana Pérez, executive director of the Central American Resource Center. "Community organizers will be walking the streets at night. We'll be taking kids to the movies, making sure they have something peaceful to do."
The slayings were the 70th and 71st in the city this year and the fifth and sixth in the Mission since Aug. 22. No arrests have been made in any of the killings.
In all of 2007 there were 98 homicides, the highest total in San Francisco since 1995.
Alvarez-Rodriguez said Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties has been hit particularly hard by the violence. In the past two years, she said, 10 of its employees and counseling clients have been killed in shootings.
"This is a huge blow," she said. "So many of these young men and women live in neighborhoods where violence is happening. I wish to God it wasn't happening, but this is their home."
Recent Mission District killings
Six people have been shot to death in the Mission District since Aug. 22. No arrests have been made in the killings.
-- Samuel Mitchell, 47, killed Aug. 22 at 26th and Folsom streets.
-- Jorge Hurtado, 18, shot and killed Aug. 24 at Treat Avenue and 23rd Street.
-- Marcelino Canul-Castro, 24, fatally shot Monday at San Carlos and 18th streets.
-- Mark Guardado, 45, president of the San Francisco chapter of the Hells Angels, killed Tuesday near 24th Street and Treat Avenue. Police speculate that a member of a rival motorcycle gang may have been responsible.
-- Noel Espinoza, 19, and Matthew Solomon, 23, killed Thursday night near Espinoza's home on 24th Street at Utah Street.