The neighborhoods may be different, but the sidewalk scenes are the same.
Flowers. Candles. Makeshift crosses spotted with handwritten notes. Grieving friends and relatives standing in remembrance of a lost life.
The most recent backdrop of grief is in North Highlands, where on a residential street corner the friends of Joseph Zachary Gomez spent most of Thursday mourning an 18-year-old man gunned down in front of his aunt's home the night before.
Sheriff's investigators said Gomez was a gang member. His friends and family said he was a decent young man who got caught at the wrong end of his neighborhood's violent side.
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"Being a young kid living in North Highlands, you can have enemies just being you," said Leann Epley, Gomez's aunt.
Gomez, who had lived in the neighborhood since he was 5 years old, was the third man shot and killed in Sacramento County in a 45-hour period. A 21-year-old man was killed early Tuesday near his mother's home in south Sacramento and a 36-year-old man was shot to death about 1 a.m. Wednesday in front of a south Sacramento apartment complex, police said.
All three shootings were gang-related but appear to be unrelated to each other, authorities said.
Despite a recent rash of killings -- there have been five shooting deaths so far this month in the city and unincorporated neighborhoods of the county -- Sacramento has had fewer homicides in 2007 than it did at this point last year. So far this year, 35 people have been killed in the Sacramento area; there had been 43 homicides through this time last year, records show.
North Highlands has been the site of three killings this year.
On Wednesday, gunshots rang out about 10:25 p.m. near Gilman Way and David Drive, sheriff's officials said. Deputies arrived seven minutes later and were told that Gomez was being taken to Mercy San Juan Medical Center in a friend's car.
Gomez, who had been shot in the upper torso, was pronounced dead at the hospital at 10:56 p.m., sheriff's officials said.
Margie Romero, another of Gomez's aunts, said her nephew was walking toward his cousin on Gilman Way when a car drove by. The car stopped, backed up and someone inside fired a gun, Romero said.
Investigators described the car as a small white vehicle -- possibly a Saturn -- with chrome wheels. No one would tell deputies what the shooter looked like, said Sacramento County Sheriff's Sgt. Tim Curran.
"This behavior is going to continue as long as these gang members know they can hide under the cloak of anonymity that the public provides them," Curran said.
The youngest of five children, Gomez had lived with Romero off and on for the past 14 years. His mother was en route from Colorado on Thursday night.
The family does not have money to pay for a funeral and will hold a car wash at Madison Avenue near Jackson Street this weekend, Romero said.
Anyone with information regarding Gomez's death is asked to contact sheriff's homicide detectives at (916) 874-5115 or Crime Alert at (916) 443-HELP. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for up to a $1,000 reward.