Crime

Slayings spur plea for Fresno gang truce

A day after two people were killed in a drive-by shooting in her district, Fresno City Council Member Cynthia Sterling issued a plea Thursday to rival gangs to put down their weapons and agree to a 60-day truce.

The shooting Wednesday in the 200 block of West Strother Avenue was the latest violence in a neighborhood with a long history of gang activity and drug trafficking.

Sterling asked gang leaders to call her so that they can work together to stop the violence.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said the shooting is being investigated as gang-motivated, and that a team of homicide detectives and gang investigators have been assigned to the case. Dyer also said he will beef up uniformed patrol officers in the area.

The goal, Dyer said, is for a quick arrest to prevent retaliation.

Dead are Stanley Lyday, 49, and Jasper Jerome Johnson, 17, the Coroner's Office reported. The name of the wounded victim, a 23-year-old woman, was not made public.

Sterling said the double homicide "was the last straw," adding that there have been four homicides and "countless" shootings in her district in the last few months.

"We need to have an end to the violence that has plagued our community," she said. "As a mother, I am sick and tired of taking late-night phone calls about shootings in my neighborhoods. I am sick and tired of those whose senseless acts of violence are hurting innocent people."

And, she said, "I am sick and tired that our children can't play in their front yards and our seniors can't walk in their neighborhoods for fear of being caught in a drive-by."

Her words could have been written by Edward Gray, 44, a lifelong southwest Fresno resident, who said residents are fed up with all the gang violence and are afraid to go outside -- even during daylight -- for fear of being killed.

Police, city and church leaders need to work with residents to "get our neighborhoods back," Gray said. "It's about pulling together for the sake of the children."

The shooting happened about 8 p.m. Wednesday outside Gray's home at 217 W. Strother Ave.

Gray said he was watching television when he heard 10 to 20 shots in rapid succession. Soon after, Johnson staggered into his house, moaning and clutching his abdomen. He said nothing before collapsing in the living room, Gray said.

After calling 911, Gray said he tried to comfort the boy. Once police arrived, an officer pulled the boy outside. Paramedics rushed him to Community Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, said Lt. Mark Salazar.

Lyday died at the scene, Salazar said.

On Thursday, a black baseball cap and red roses marked the area where Lyday died on the sidewalk in front of Gray's home. He was shot in the neck, Gray said. Another set of roses on Gray's front lawn showed where Johnson was given first aid by paramedics.

Salazar said the woman suffered a minor wound to her hand.

The shots were fired from a passing vehicle occupied by several men, but detectives have not determined who the intended target was, Salazar said.

Gray said he has known Lyday all his life and that Johnson was a friend of Gray's niece. He said the three victims were among a number of people just hanging out in his front yard for several hours.

The killings bring the number of homicides so far this year to 25; eight of them were gang-motivated, Dyer said.

In 2005, he said, the city had 48 homicides, with 28 of them gang-motivated, and in 2006 there were 52 homicides, with 12 of them linked to gangs.

Dyer said his department's efforts to fight gangs has been well-documented and includes gang sweeps in different parts of the city, as well as his ongoing campaign to rid the city of Bulldogs Gang members.

On Thursday, Deputy Chief Keith Foster and Kyle Loreto, Mayor Alan Autry's deputy chief of staff, were in San Jose to participate in the two-day California Cities Gang Prevention Network. Thirteen cities are taking part in the gathering, focusing on gang prevention and youth intervention efforts.

Dyer said Foster was planning to talk about the Bulldogs Gang campaign. Loreto was scheduled to make a presentation on the Mayor's Gang Intervention Initiative, which has enabled 50 known gang members to leave the gang lifestyle, while helping 80 other young people seek positive alternatives to gangs.

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