2 dead, 5 wounded in Calif. shooting at taco shop

SALINAS, Calif. — Two people were killed and five others wounded on Monday when a gunman opened fire into a crowd outside a California taco restaurant in a suspected gang-related shooting, the most recent attack in a spate of violence that police say they’re trying to get a handle on.

The 1:30 a.m. shooting happened after a fight inside the restaurant spilled outside, police said. No arrests have been made.

Arriving officers found a 22-year-old man dead from gunshot wounds. A 28-year-old man who also was shot several times was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Salinas Police Department Cmdr. Dave Shaw said the shooting happened after two different groups in the restaurant started brawling. The conflict moved out into the parking lot, where it grew into “a pretty decent sized fight,” said Shaw.

Then a suspect pulled a handgun and began firing into the crowd, Shaw said. By the time he was done, the suspect had shot seven people, killing two. Another victim, a 25-year-old man, was critically wounded, Shaw said. The other victims, including a 53-year-old woman who was shot multiple times, were expected to survive.

Police have not identified a suspect. Detectives Monday morning were gathering surveillance videos from neighboring business and interviewing witnesses.

Salinas, a farming town in Central California, has seen “an uptick in violent crime” in recent weeks, Shaw said. There have been 14 murders so far this year, nine in the past 12 days; last year there were 22, including at least 11 that were confirmed to be gang-related.

“There’s no real way to find out what’s motivating these guys to pick it up all of a sudden,” said Shaw.

Monday’s shooting occurred just hours after a 23-year-old Salinas man was shot and killed. Shaw said that in that situation, the victim stepped outside of his apartment to make a phone call, and two suspects approached him and opened fire. Again, there have been no arrests.

Shaw said they’ve been trying to get ahead of the violence.

On Friday, local police fanned out with state and federal partners for an intensive crackdown on potential gang members, sending out 70 officers who conducted 10 probation and parole searches, about 70 traffic stops and checked numerous pedestrians in areas known for gang activity. Eleven people were arrested during the operation.

Salinas, a city of 150,000, has long battled gang violence, and frequently has one of the state’s highest gang-related homicide rates. Just 30 miles north of two major prisons, the main rivalry in town is between the Nortenos and Surenos, gangs that once were largely confined to Northern and Southern California, respectively, but now are doing battle in much of the state.

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