In just two months last year, members of a northern Sacramento County gang allegedly killed two people and injured two more in a spate of violence that law enforcement officials have described as unusually heinous.
Detectives fear the carnage caused by these gangsters is far worse than those numbers suggest. Investigators from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and Citrus Heights police say they believe members of the same Norteño gang subset are responsible for as many as six other violent crimes, including the fatal shooting of 10-year-old Elvira Campos in her North Highlands home in May last year and the near-death of a boy the same age a month before..
The vast majority of victims in the confirmed cases and those of interest to the detectives were not gang members – instead, most were innocent bystanders, some of them targeted because of a perceived connection to the Norteños’ rival Sureño subset. The severity and frequency of the crimes, and the young age of several victims, heightened detectives’ concerns, they said.
They believe there are people who can identify those responsible, but fear of retribution and a street culture that forbids “snitching” has been a consistent hurdle. Detectives again are appealing to the public’s conscience.
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“There’s people out there who do know exactly what happened and are choosing not to (talk),” said Citrus Heights police Detective Shaun Gualco. “You’ve got a 10-year-old girl dead and a 10-year-old boy who’s going to live with it the rest of his life.
“No matter what color you wear, it’s not OK – in anyone’s book.”
Authorities so far have charged seven alleged gang members: Alex Camacho, 19; Hillary Camacho, 20; David Jaimes, 21; Nicolas Mancia, 21; Jonathan Ramos, 17; Hayley Rogers, 21; and James Sneed, 23. They have been charged with a variety of felonies in connection with the four victims shot in May and June 2013, two fatally. The Sacramento Bee is naming Ramos, a juvenile, because he has been charged as an adult.
Six of the seven attorneys defending the suspects did not respond to messages from The Bee or declined to comment. Attorney Danny Brace, who is representing Mancia, said his client maintains he was at home with his family at the time of the May 1 drive-by shooting he and co-defendant Jaimes are accused of committing. Brace said Mancia’s family members have confirmed his alibi.
Alex Camacho, Jaimes and Rogers stand accused of the most serious crime – a double murder on May 21, 2013. Enrique Tobias De La Cruz, 29, and Gladis Quinteros Ramos, 41, died sitting in their car on Birdcage Street in Citrus Heights, apparently mistaken for rival gang members. In seeking an arrest warrant in that case, Gualco wrote that a witness told police that Camacho and Jaimes began “cheering” as Rogers drove them away, shouting affirmations of their own gang and slurs directed at their enemies. Jaimes used an assault rifle in the attack, according to court documents.
In addition to the four victims who suffered gunshot wounds at the hands of some of the charged suspects, a victim in a fifth crime was threatened with a gun during an incident in which Alex Camacho pulled the hammer back on a handgun, but did not fire, according to court records. Gualco wrote in another request for a warrant that that crime was intended to “further the Norteño criminal street gang’s reputation of fear and violence through intimidation toward the community.”
In pursuing unsolved cases they believe are linked to the Norteño subset, authorities are looking as far back as July 2012, when a 17-year-old boy was gunned down on David Drive in North Highlands. Angel Yanez was walking alone through the neighborhood, doing “absolutely nothing” that would have prompted trouble, when he was felled by bullets, said sheriff’s Detective Angie Kirby. Yanez was not a validated gang member but did have friends and “associates” affiliated with the gang, the detective said.
Authorities also are looking at a shooting into a home on Rattan Way in Citrus Heights; the shooting of a teenager on that city’s San Pablo Drive; and a home-invasion robbery on Generals Place, near the former McClellan Air Force base.
But perhaps most distressing to detectives are the unsolved cases of two 10-year-olds shot one month apart. Neither shooting appeared to be an accident, according to investigators.
On April 20, 2013, a boy took multiple bullets while standing in front of a Whitecliff Way home where his family had celebrated a baby’s birthday. A car loaded with five people pulled up, and at least one shooter opened fire. The boy suffered life-threatening injuries but has since recovered, said sheriff’s Detective Scott Swisher.
Nobody in the family has ties to gangs, Swisher said. It’s unclear why the assailants might have perceived rival gang connections.
That lack of discernment is common among the crimes so far linked to the Norteño subset, detectives said.
“They form an opinion based on driving down the street,” Swisher said.
On May 18, 2013, another carload of attackers drove up to a home on Channing Drive. Two gunmen got out of the car, walked up to a bay window and opened fire on the family room, where 10-year-old Elvira Campos and her parents had been watching a Latino variety show.
Detectives believe a family member who was not home at the time might have been the intended target, but the presence of other family members did not stop the shooters. The room was well-lit, and the girl, seated in a chair in front of the window, would have been easily visible, Swisher said. The girl’s parents also were struck.
The detective said those crimes are the kind that “shocks the community.”
“That’s our ultimate goal – to get these crimes solved,” Swisher said. “Those really eat at you.”
The gang subset under scrutiny is a small group, primarily active in North Highlands, Antelope and Citrus Heights. Swisher said another Norteño subset was temporarily aligned with it, but members went their separate ways in part because of fallout over the shootings of the children.
Detectives said discord over Elvira’s death in particular has been clear in some emotional interviews with gang members.
“I know it bothers a lot of people out there,” Kirby said. “This is stepping out of their normal guidelines.”