Three people were killed and four others wounded in a spray of bullets during a drive-by shooting outside a Stockton market Tuesday night.
The number of victims surprised police, even in a neighborhood known for gun violence.
The call came in to police about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday from the shooting outside the Madison market in the 700 block of North Madison Street, an area Stockton police Officer Joe Silva described as “a high crime neighborhood known for its drug and gang activity.”
Still, “I have not seen this in recent times, where seven people were shot at a scene,” Silva said.
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Police said witnesses reported gunshots being fired from a dark-colored sport-utility vehicle heading southbound on North Madison Street into a crowd gathered outside the market.
Officers found seven gunshot victims. Arniska Lofton, 27, died at the scene.
The wounded were taken to the hospital where two others died: Kabin Kennebrew, 23, and Aliyah Taylor, 20, both of Stockton.
The other victims, four men, ages 38, 32, 25 and 24, were expected to survive their injuries, police said.
Gang members are known to congregate outside the market, standing by their cars and talking or smoking. The neighborhood is mostly single-family homes and apartment complexes.
The convenience market is across the street from the Stockton Unified School District headquarters, and within a few blocks of downtown and Stockton City Hall.
The magnitude of Tuesday’s shooting surprised even those who work daily with gang members.
“That’s a big number of people being shot,” said Ken Praegitzer, the manager of Operation Peacekeeper, a division of the city government devoted to preventing youth and gang violence.
The group also responded the scene Tuesday night and returned Wednesday morning in an attempt to calm tempers and mitigate possible retaliation from friends of the victims.
“Tensions are so high right now, our hope is we’re able to diffuse some things,” said Praegitzer. “It’s tragic that this happened, and there’s nothing we can do now but learn from it and build on it.”
The surviving victims could be the target audience for the Peacekeeper program, which seeks to assist young people who have been involved with guns and gangs – often as either suspects or victims in a violent crime.
Several of the outreach workers tried to contact the families of Tuesday’s shooting victims at the hospital, Praegitzer said.
“We’re going to try and connect with them and let them know the danger that they’re in,” Praegitzer said.
It’s an effort the city hopes will supplement work already being done by the police.
Stockton’s force has struggled alongside the city’s finances. The city filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012. A bankruptcy exit plan went into effect on Feb. 25.
When the city’s economy flagged, unemployment increased and municipal money troubles were the most severe, the numbers of officers also decreased. At one point, there were about 325 officers on the force.
The number of officers has risen to 379 in the last two years after Stockton residents voted for a tax measure to hire more police officers. The goal is to hire 120 additional officers in the next three years.
Call The Bee’s Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.