Marek Warszawski

Fresno, we have a gun violence problem. What are we going to do about it?

Baby shot in head, after mother refuses man’s advances, says Dyer

A 10-month-old girl was shot in the head on June 23 in Fresno, CA after her 18-year-old mother attempted to leave a party where a man tried to hold her hand and have her sit on his lap, according to Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer.
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A 10-month-old girl was shot in the head on June 23 in Fresno, CA after her 18-year-old mother attempted to leave a party where a man tried to hold her hand and have her sit on his lap, according to Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer.

Fresno, we have a gun problem.

Too many guns in immature, irresponsible hands. Too many senseless shootings. Too many needless injuries and deaths. Resulting in a flood of racist stereotypes and a big fat black eye for our city.

Is this how it’s going to be all summer?

Logging on to fresnobee.com Monday morning after a weekend in the mountains and reading the headlines made my spirits sag and my head hurt.

“10-month-old baby shot in the head, in critical condition, says Fresno police chief”

“Man shot to death at his own birthday party, Fresno police say”

“Girl, 16, dies two days after being shot in Fresno”

“Two men hospitalized after shooting in southeast Fresno”

And that’s just from two days.

When I look at the police mugshot of 23-year-old Marcos Antonio Echartea, the suspect in custody for allegedly shooting 10-month-old Fayth Percy, I see a young man with a wispy mustache, dead eyes and no regard for human life.

When I listen to Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer describe the events that led to the shooting, I wonder what occurred (or didn’t) in Echartea’s background that made him believe firing three bullets into a parked car on a dark street was an appropriate response to a woman who wouldn’t hold his hand or sit on his lap.

Did Echartea grow up without a male figure, be it a father, uncle, or even an older brother, to show him (even by osmosis) how to respect women? Did he lack a strong mother to teach him how to control his emotions?

Or is Echartea simply a sociopath?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. What we do know is Echartea doesn’t have a criminal record (in Fresno County or neighboring counties) even though he was wanted by police for a house shooting that happened a month ago.

“In that case, one of the bullets penetrated the walls, and nearly struck another 1-year-old who was inside,” Dyer said. “That bullet landed approximately 1 foot from where the baby was.”

Violent weekend in Fresno

Echartea remains in Fresno County Jail and faces nine felony charges. If convicted, let’s hope he gets years and years to ponder his horrible life choices.

While not in any way blaming her for what occurred, I also have a question for Deziree Menagh, Fayth Percy’s 18-year-old mother: Why take your infant daughter to a party at 4 a.m.?

At 4 a.m., 10-month-olds should be home sleeping in their cribs – with their mother, father or other family members sleeping nearby. If that sounds harsh or judgmental, so be it.

Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only shooting in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

According to police, about 30 people were celebrating Nicholas Polin’s 22nd birthday when five juvenile gang members showed up and started barking. (Yes, barking.) Polin asked the five to leave, but they returned 10 minutes later and one of them pulled out a handgun.

You probably already know what happened next. While struggling to wrestle the gun from the teenage gang banger, the birthday boy became yet another victim of gun violence.

My condolences to Polin’s family and friends.

Gangs are also blamed in the death of 16-year-old Ashanti Reason, who was shot in the leg Thursday night and died of her injury two days later. ShotSpotter recorded 22 shots fired, but witnesses at the scene did not cooperate with police, Dyer said. No shocker there.

Topping off the nutso weekend, two men were hospitalized Sunday afternoon after being shot while walking along Belmont Avenue. One of the victims told police they couldn’t see who did it.

Status quo isn’t working

I won’t pretend to have a magic solution to this multilayered problem. One thing I know for certain, though, is we’ll get nowhere by blaming people of differing political ideologies or certain nationalities.

Reading the comments tagged to the bottom of these news stories shows we in Fresno remain stuck in that echo chamber. Faulting DACA for gang shootings without knowing anything about the person’s background? That’s ignorant, not to mention racist.

For a moment, let’s set aside the gun-control debate and simply acknowledge that what we’re doing isn’t working. The status quo has only gotten us where we are.

Whether it’s enacting sensible gun laws, promoting gun safety through “smart gun” technology or investing in preventative programs outside traditional policing like Advance Peace, we need to do more. We have to do more.

Or else we’ll be reading the same news stories over and over again, for the rest of this summer and beyond. More shootings. More injuries and deaths. More tragedies that could have been prevented.

Acceptance is not OK with me. Sure hope it’s not OK with you.

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Marek Warszawski writes opinion columns on news, politics, sports and quality of life issues for The Fresno Bee, where he has worked since 1998. He is a Bay Area native, a UC Davis graduate and lifelong Sierra frolicker. He welcomes discourse with readers but does not suffer fools nor trolls.

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