South San Francisco community looks to fight back against gang violence 

A month after three young men were gunned down in a South San Francisco neighborhood, community leaders are preparing their own offensive to strike back against street violence.

Police believe the shooting that killed Hector Flores, 20, Omar Cortez, 18, and Gonzalo Avalos, 19, the night of Dec. 22 was gang-related, though they have not identified any suspects and three others who were wounded in the incident have refused to cooperate with investigators.

“Folks are upset,” Mayor Kevin Mullin said. “They’re frustrated. They’re concerned, naturally, about what’s happening in their ­neighborhood.”

Mullin said he and leaders such as City Councilman Pedro Gonzalez, who lives nearby, are forming a neighborhood coalition they hope will find new ways to engage youth and build trust between residents and police.

The area has experienced violence before, including the shooting death of a 15-year-old boy in May, but the triple homicide “has taken it to another level,” Mullin said.

One key player, the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center, hopes to bring to South City strategies that transformed a formerly gang-plagued block of North Amphlett Boulevard in San Mateo, Associate Director Michelle Vilchez said.

Starting in 2004, the group held neighborhood meetings to build trust with police and walked door to door with code-enforcement officers to urge property owners to clean up graffiti and report crimes.

The result was a significant drop in crime, Vilchez said, and now the center is replicating that effort on Rogell Court in San Mateo.

“We really believe in the strategies and have seen success, and we want to be helpful,” Vilchez said.

Also, the center is working with South San Francisco High School to organize parent meetings to help “give us some direction as to where to go next,” Principal Michael Coyne said.

Investigators said Flores, Cortez and Avalos, all from South San Francisco, were shot near Eighth Lane and Linden Avenue. Three other young men between the ages of 15 and 20 were shot and wounded, though they have since been released from the hospital, police Sgt. Joni Lee said.

Witnesses reported seeing three males drive away from the scene. Despite starting a tip line and offering a $25,000 reward for information, no suspects have been identified.

“We’ve got to somehow bring the fear factor down so people are willing to come forward with information,” Mullin said. “It’s the only way the police can do their job. They can’t do it alone.”

Most wanted

Police are seeking information about a South San Francisco triple homicide.

- Anyone with information about the Dec. 22 shooting is encouraged to call an anonymous tip line set up by South San Francisco police, (650) 829-3700.
- The city is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect or suspects.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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Shaun Bishop

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