ESCONDIDO Calif. – National Night Out, an event Escondido police hosted Tuesday, was the first time the community had come together since the tragic shooting death of a 55-year-old resident.
A stray bullet killed Catherine Kennedy as she was driving home from church the night of March 7. Investigators allege that a gang member was shooting at rival gang members when a bullet struck Kennedy in the head as she drove by.
Many residents who attended the event did so with heavy hearts. Several neighbors told FOX 5 Escondido has a gang problem.
“She was an innocent bystander whose life was wasted,” said Robert Ruppert. “We’ve been hearing more and more shootings. People are getting more and more brazen about it here in Escondido.”
“You get over to where that shooting was, that’s Diablos country and they’re mean,” said Tammy Cullen.
“We see the graffiti from the gangs and we see bunches of kids hanging around,” said Harry Cullen.
Escondido Mayor Sam Abed agreed gangs have been a problem in Escondido. He said since Kennedy’s death, the city is further focusing its efforts on stopping gang activity.
“It was a wake-up call,” Abed said. “We don’t have anymore illegal criminals in our gang members. We have deported all the criminals from our city and we’re going to continue to do that.”
Escondido Police Chief Craig Carter said the slightest gang connection now warrants the full attention of his department.
“We’ve changed some of our tactics in the way we respond, the hours that we respond,” Carter said. “If they think it’s a gang person that’s involved, a different group comes in and investigates,” said Carter.
Residents said the extra efforts have not gone unnoticed.
“I think they’re cracking down. I think they’re doing what they can. There is certainly more of a police presence,” said Harry Cullen.
“The police are doing the best ability they have. They’re just so limited,” said Tammy Cullen.