Officials: Ongoing Madera gang problem is worse

FRESNO, Calif.

Officials there say the verdict highlights Madera's ongoing gang problem. Over the past few weeks, Madera's Police Chief says his officers have responded to a number of gang related shootings, most of them involve retaliation.

Barbara Llanes has called the city of Madera home for the past 58 years. She claims what used to be a safe place, has turned into a haven for gangs.

Barbara Llanes said, "It's scary because we have kids and grandkids and these guys are just hitting everywhere with innocent people around."

Madera County's District Attorney, Michael Keitz says 28-year-old Victor Raqueno is one of those innocent people. On July 29th, 2008, he was at a home near the intersection of Davis and Cleveland, when Juan Amezcua, who was just 17 at the time, approached him for being in his so-called territory.

Michael Keitz said, "During the encounter, he was shot down at point blank range. Today, our jury spoke out against gangs."

Following a seven-week-long trial, the jury convicted Amezcua of second degree murder, in addition to several gang-related charges. His friend, Eucario Ruiz, who was there when the crime happened, was found guilty of participating in a criminal street gang. While the verdicts send a strong message, Madera police chief, Michael Kime has seen a recent spike in gang violence.

Michael Kime said, "Most of which is retaliatory in nature, I guess you can say, one upmanship based on whatever gang affiliation."

Surveillance video captured back in February outside an AM-PM, shows one of those shootings. And just this past Monday, Madera Community Hospital was put on lockdown, after a shooting victim, possibly related to a gang, showed up seeking treatment.

Madera officials say they're focused on putting a stop to the ongoing violence. Later this week, they will be patrolling some of the gang-inundated areas, to help make that happen.

More than three-thousand validated gang members live in the City of Madera. There aren't any gang injunctions in place, but it is something officials here are looking into.

As for the second suspect involved with Tuesday's ruling, the d-a's office is hoping to re-try him for murder.

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