Blood still stains the driveway of a San Pascual Street residence adorned with flowers and candles, all reminders of the most recent death of a Santa Barbara teen due to gang violence. In what police spokesperson Lt. Paul McCaffrey said was a gang-related attack on three lower Westside “active gang members or gang associates,” 16-year-old Lorenzo Valentin Carachure was stabbed to death Monday. His two acquaintances were also stabbed, but are reportedly in good condition.
The three were walking down the 700 block of San Pascual Street between Sutton Avenue and Ortega Street at around 10:30 p.m. when they were attacked by a larger group-probably half a dozen, according to Sgt. Mike McGrew-of younger men shouting gang slogans. The three were reportedly chased down one by one and attacked. Carachure, treated at the scene, died later at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. A 17-year-old victim was treated at the hospital and released, while a 19-year-old victim, a relative of Carachure, is in good condition at the hospital.
Despite the description of the three in a media release as active members or associates of a gang, McCaffrey would elaborate on none of the three’s relationship to gangs and offered little information about the victims. “I’m not getting into their biographies right now,” he said. Carachure’s father, Apolina, walked by the scene of the attack Tuesday afternoon, and while he didn’t have much to say, he explained through his brother’s broken translation how at the scene Monday night he wanted to pick up his son’s body and take him home, but the police had cordoned off the area.
McCaffrey was also mum on most of the details of the investigation. Some people in the department didn’t even want the fact that Carachure had been killed to get out, according to McCaffrey, because it makes interrogation more difficult. “It’s easier to get someone to confess for stabbing someone who didn’t die than if they have,” he said. “There’s a big difference there.”
Nothing the three were doing Monday night on San Pascual led to the encounter. But McCaffrey said that explaining the motives behind the attack wasn’t that easy, noting, “What if they did something last week to piss somebody off?” The previous week had been marked by gang squabbles, including a handful of fights earlier that Monday. Two people also were stabbed on the Eastside, near the corner of Milpas and Quinientos streets on Saturday, in an incident that police have labeled gang-related. Police, however, could not confirm whether the incidents were connected.
According to McGrew, one of two things usually happens following a larger incident like this-gang members either lay low, staying out of trouble to avoid getting caught, or they immediately retaliate. People gathered at the site of the attack claimed that Westside gang members met at nearby Bohnett Park, about five blocks away, after the stabbing. McCaffrey acknowledged that the meeting took place and said police had contact with several of those present. Both McCaffrey and McGrew said such meetings are commonplace following an incident like this one.
The murder comes slightly more than four months after 15-year-old Luis Angel Linares was killed at State and Carrillo streets in a high-profile, gang-related fight. Since then, gang activity in Santa Barbara has captured the attention of public officials and the community. Town hall forums were held, the City Council set aside more money for programs geared toward teens and children, and the police resumed bicycle patrols in both the Eastside and Westside neighborhoods to create a more visible and personable presence-even at night and on the weekend. “Unfortunately it comes down to conscious decisions by human beings,” Police Chief Cam Sanchez said, speaking before the City Council on Tuesday. A small percentage of the population is causing the majority of the problems, he continued, which is one of the reasons that he is not in favor of a gang injunction in the city. “I’m not ready to paint the community with one brush when the actions are done by a few.”
Councilmembers offered encouragement to Sanchez, citing the department’s track record in capturing criminals. They also promised to “continue to aggressively address violence in this city,” as Councilmember Helene Schneider put it. “It’s time to stop this violence,” Mayor Marty Blum added.
First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, whose district includes the area where the attack occurred, said any time a life is taken in the community is a time of great concern to make sure a positive environment is being created for children. “It just grabs my heart and pains me.”