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San Bernardino police address public as city reels from recent uptick in violence

Photo courtesy KNBC

Police recover a revolver used in a gunfight in a San Bernardino park in which two men were killed, a woman gravely injured and another man shot in the foot.

Bullets are flying all over San Bernardino lately, and yesterday law enforcement officials held a public meeting to discuss the uptick in violence -- preceded by yet another killing that morning.

Police arrested 21-year-old Esequiel Cisneros of Rialto in connection with a Tuesday morning shooting that left one San Bernardino man dead and two others wounded. It was the city’s fifth killing this week, the 12th this month and at least the 20th this year, indicating a murder rate not seen since the 1990s, according to the San Bernardino Sun.

The victim, 19-year-old Gregorio Gonzales, was shot while visiting a memorial for his friend, 21-year-old Michael Espino, who had been shot dead 16 days prior, the Sun reports.

The shootings seem to be part of an ominous trend, with each new week bringing more bodies and more mayhem, as when a gunfight erupted in a crowded public park on May 6.

City authorities, gathered for a news conference in front of police headquarters Tuesday, attempted to make sense of the violence. That proved hard to do, however, with the focus of discussion on how well staffed the police department is.

“We’re short staffed and overworked,” said police Capt. Gwen Waters, according to the Sun.

City Attorney James Penman seemed to back up Waters’ claim, stating that more officers are needed “to handle the overabundance of crime.”

Yet Chief Robert Handy was careful to say that “Even though we are not at the level of manpower I would like to see us at, that is not the reason behind the recent rash of homicides plaguing our community.”

So what is the reason? Authorities apparently didn’t say on Tuesday, although much of the violence is certainly gang-related. Why gang violence might be on an upswing, however, remains a mystery.

A city leader in nearby Hesperia, addressing a disturbing rash of murder conspiracies among local teens, recently stated that it may be due to an influx of low-income residents coming to these communities following the housing crisis. (Although teen murder murder conspiracies are not unique to Hesperia.)

Whatever is going on, all agree the region seems to be in the throes of an unusual amount of violence -- of the sort that took the life of an innocent 16-year-old girl in neighboring Fontana last weekend. Out-of-towners don’t even want to visit anymore, residents say.

“It’s getting out of control,” one San Bernardino police sergeant told the Sun.

Here is a map of homicides in San Bernardino this year, developed by Sun staff:


View San Bernardino homicides in a larger map

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