A 15-year-old Westside resident and El Puente student was stabbed to death behind Saks Fifth Avenue as part of sprawling after-school gang brawl between Eastside and Westside gang members that engulfed much of downtown Santa Barbara - and led to an impromptu suspect lineup in the middle of State Street - on Wednesday afternoon.
Police are not releasing the name of the victim pending notification of relatives, and are currently holding about 10 teens at the police station for questioning. No arrests have been made for the killing. According to another report, there is also another teenager in critical condition at Cottage Hospital.
Initial indications suggest the victim was affliliated with a Westside gang. Police are not releasing many details, but indicate that the altercation began at State and Carrillo streets, where the victim was clubbed in the head. He fled up State Street, and was stabbed more than once in the back. He ended up in the bushes behind Saks (pictured). Paramedics were on hand almost immediately, and tried for 10 minutes or more to revive the youth. They were unable to do so.
Officer Bob Casey retrieved a knife from a nearby trash can (pictured being picked up by forensic technician Mike Ullemeyer), but it’s too soon to say whether that was the murder weapon. A police spokesperson said officers seized many weapons, none firearms.
The violence was in some way linked to the public schools’ schedules of partial school days known as “minimum days,” set aside for teacher training and staff meetings. It is a common occurrence for gang violence to break out on such days, frequently flaring up particularly near the bus depot by Chapala and Figueroa streets.
Some students at Santa Barbara High School reported hearing earlier in the day that something big was scheduled to take place on State Street later in the day. In response, city police sent extra officers to patrol State Street, including spokesperson Lt. Paul McCaffrey. He reported that by the time he arrived, things appeared to have quieted down. But that did not last long.
Shortly after the incident, about 35 officers had been dispatched to the scene, including police chief Cam Sanchez (pictured). In addition, about 10 Sheriff’s Department deputies came to help. The courthouse experienced a blackout at the same time, so courthouse bailiffs were manning the police barricades erected throughout a two-block bite of State Street and a two-block sweep of Carrillo. Numerous suspects were questioned while seated on State Street in front of Saks (pictured). This left traffic backed up for blocks for miles, and the traffic logjam extended well into the evening.
More news is expected on this by tomorrow.