Police identified 15-year old Luis Angel Linares as the murder victim of the gang brawl that engulfed much of State Street on Wednesday afternoon, March 14. Investigators said Linares, a student at El Puente High School who also went by the nicknames “Nacho” or “Chunky,” died of multiple stab wounds to the torso and that he’d been clubbed on the head as well by a heavy object. A 14-year old Santa Barbara Junior High School student is being held without bail on charges of murdering Linares, as well as criminal conspiracy and of committing the assault to further the interests of a street gang. In addition, officers have charged four other suspects in connection with Linares’ death: two 16 year olds, one 14 year old, and one 13 year old. All are being charged with criminal conspiracy and assault on behalf of a gang, though aside from the alleged killer they are all being charged as juveniles.
Police have described Linares as a “gang associate” who was killed during a violent brawl between eastside and west side gang members that took place as hundreds of public school students flocked downtown during the afternoon of a minimum day. Friends of Linares have strenuously objected that the victim was not a gang member, though they acknowledge he associated with many gang members-and that several of his extended familymembers were active in the city’s gang life. One friend who attended junior high school with the victim described Linares as smart, funny and the class clown. He played football and enjoyed skateboarding. Others said he could be mouthy and confrontational, but not known to be a very adept fighter. His inclination to hang with gang members reportedly caused his parents significant concern, and they tried to keep him away from gang associates.
Linares’ death dominated conversation inside and outside the classroom in most downtown public schools, with many students working through their anger and sorrow. Some took the occasion to write letters to the school district blasting the policy of allowing all students out during teacher training days. Instead, said some students, the district should have staggered the minimum days so that west side schools and east side schools were not let out at the same time. They have noted that minimum days have been unofficially designated as an occasion for gang confrontations. On Thursday, the faculty at Santa Barbara High School decided to eliminate the school year’s one remaining minimum day.
In the meantime police are bracing for the retaliatory aftershocks that frequently follow lethal outbursts of gang violence. Thursday was rife with rumors that car loads of armed west side gangsters were on their way to the Pennywise Market on the East side looking for revenge. Police patrolled such areas with a conspicuous show of force to discourage further violence. It’s expected that officers will be knocking on doors of as many suspected and known gang members and associates now on probation as possible. Those found in violation will be taken to juvenile hall or county jail.
Friends, relatives, classmates and community members have been leaving candles, flowers, and other offerings at the spot where Linares died in the Saks Fifth Avenue parking lot. Although the spontaneous memorial site had been dismantled by Friday morning, passersby still stop to pray or cross themselves, said the valet on duty. A woman who brought a bouquet of flowers and a sign asking, “Why?” in English and Spanish, was not turned away but was bothered that the memorial was not left in place.