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Teen homicides – the guns fire and the killers vanish

A dead teen, a killer on the loose, a mother’s grief

Isaiah Diaz was standing in front of his grandmother’s home in Sacramento’s Colonial Village neighborhood. Someone drove up and shot him.
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Isaiah Diaz was standing in front of his grandmother’s home in Sacramento’s Colonial Village neighborhood. Someone drove up and shot him.

Detectives in Sacramento County investigated more than 800 homicides between 2007 and 2015 – and records show they were above average at solving those crimes.

According to the Murder Accountability Project, a database of federal and local homicide statistics from around the nation, roughly 72 percent of the homicides in Sacramento County have been solved over the past decade. That rate is among the best for California’s large counties and is far better than the statewide average.

However, like many other places, Sacramento police agencies have a more difficult time making arrests in cases in which the victim is a teenager.

Detectives here make an arrest in about 63 percent of their teen murder cases; 42 teen homicide cases over the past decade here remain unsolved. Other big counties have far worse track records and statewide fewer than half the homicides of teens result in an arrest.

Since the start of 2007, a total of 114 teenagers have been the victims of homicide in Sacramento County, according to records provided to The Sacramento Bee by the Sacramento Coroner’s Office under the state’s Public Records Act. The murder rate among Sacramento teens was much higher than the federal rate and young people here were twice as likely to die of homicide as those in any other age group.

All but 11 of the victims were killed by gunfire, a significantly higher ratio than national and state averages for homicides, according to FBI data. The leading cause of death for a teen homicide victim in Sacramento was a gunshot wound to the head, according to the coroner.

Fifty years ago, roughly 90 percent of murders were solved nationwide. But the clearance rate steadily plummeted as the number of gang and drug homicides grew, and the rate of so-called “acquaintance homicides” like those stemming from domestic violence declined. Today, nearly one-third of homicides go unsolved nationwide.

Ryan Lillis: 916-321-1085, @Ryan_Lillis

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