The day after two men were shot -- one fatally -- a block from Sacramento's Downtown Plaza, one gang prosecutor sees the broad-daylight shooting as evidence that gangs are growing increasingly brazen.
Supervising District Attorney Rod Norgaard said the crime is one more in a list of gang attacks that have stunned passers-by in the past two years: one at a busy intersection, another on an Elk Grove street corner and a third in a mall parking lot.
Yet the shooting in the city's core runs counter to a trend of falling violent crimes there. From 2000 to 2005, violent crime dropped nearly 17percent downtown, according to a Bee analysis of police data.
"This was just an isolated incident that was very unfortunate," said Sacramento Police Capt. Brian Louie, who supervises downtown officers. "This was something that isn't reflective of downtown."
Louie said officers on horses and bicycles and in cruisers are concentrated in the downtown area, in addition to a corps of private security officers.
Sunday's shooting unfolded as one group of five or six teens and young men approached another similar group at about 3:30 p.m., said Sacramento Police Sgt. Chris Taylor. Witnesses told police that the men threw gang signs at each other, argued and agreed to fight. But when a teenager in one group drew a gun, the other group ran.
Eric Anthony Young, 19, of Sacramento, was shot in the torso and died at UC Davis Medical Center at 8:14 p.m. Sunday, coroner's officials said. A 17-year-old was shot and remained in critical but stable condition at the hospital Monday, Taylor said. Police did not release the second teen's name.
Witnesses described the shooting suspect as a 15- or 16-year-old with a "fade" haircut -- short on the sides -- and a light complexion. He is about 5 feet, 5 inches tall, weighs about 190 pounds and wore dark clothing Sunday, Taylor said.
Shoppers and mall employees were jarred by the sound of gunshots. Police are not sure how many shots were fired.
Michael Ault, director of the Downtown Partnership, said the merchants' group was frustrated by the shooting but considers it an anomaly.
"It would be easy to be overly concerned about this from a trend standpoint. But for being in an urban center, sometimes these things happen," Ault said. "Downtown over the years has made a tremendous investment in safety and maintenance."
Ault said the Westfield Downtown Plaza is looking at a $80 million to $100 million renovation and may add a major retailer and a grocery store. The shooting occurred on a block bustling with the construction of a pair of 53- story luxury condominium and hotel towers.
Downtown improvements aside, bold acts by gang members can happen anywhere, Norgaard said. He recalled a gang-related shooting in the Florin Mall parking lot Oct. 6 in which a gangster shot and wounded a female shopper.
He also mentioned a broad-daylight, gang-motivated shooting -- in view of a bus full of children -- at the intersection of Florin Road and Stockton Boulevard in February 2005.
Another daytime crime remains unsolved: the Jan. 7 beating of 15-year-old Robert Maisonet in Elk Grove, which detectives believe to be the work of a gang.
Norgaard said the increasingly bold attacks are a result of gang members' mentality of one- upmanship and instilling fear in their rivals.
"Hiding it at nighttime does no good, because the important point is that your enemy knows what you did," Norgaard said. "You put this mentality together at a crowded mall, and you have a recipe for disaster."
In addition to escalating boldness among gang members, Norgaard said that witnesses are growing increasingly unwilling to help authorities.
Gang members who are caught, however, tend to get sentences of 25 years to life for gang-related shootings that cause harm.
The problem is a communitywide issue, Norgaard said, calling for greater vigilance among parents and educators.
"It's my contention that we as a community are ignoring this problem," he said.