CHULA VISTA, Calif. — Less than three days after Chula Vista City Council voted unanimously to close Harborside Park due to concerns of a growing homeless encampment, two people living in the park were shot early Friday morning, according to Chula Vista police, and the nearby Harborside Elementary School was placed on a brief lockdown.
“I heard rapid fire shots, and it was like pow, pow, pow, pow, pow,” a woman living nearby the park said. “It’s a common place thing around here lately that we are hearing shots.”
Just before 7 a.m. Friday, the Chula Vista Police Department said it received a report of a 26-year-old man who had been shot in the leg at Harborside Park. Police said the caller said about four to six suspects, who appeared to be kids, were surrounding the man and then ran toward the Palomar Trolley Station.
Less than 10 minutes later, another call came in about a shooting approximately a block away from the park in the 600 block of Palomar Street, where a 33-year-old man was shot and stabbed.
Both victims were transported to hospitals and police said they are living in the unsheltered homeless encampment in Harborside Park. Their injuries at the time did not appear to be life-threatening.
The shooting at Harborside Park happened before school started at Harborside Elementary School, which is next to the park. There was a before-school program in session and the school was on lockdown due to the shooting.
“There was a before-school program that was occurring at the school, the school was notified, our school resource officers also responded to the school,” Lt. Scott Adkins with Chula Vista Police Department said in an interview with FOX 5 Friday.
Police said the group of suspects were seen boarding a trolley, heading northbound. Lt. Adkins said the group committed another crime in the San Diego city area and authorities took them into custody shortly after that.
The violence Friday comes after Tuesday’s vote to close the park for 90 days citing concerns of violence, drugs and feces near the elementary school. According to Chula Vista city officials on Friday, the park closure will go into effect at the end of the month and on Aug. 31. Ten organizations will be at the park to assist the homeless currently living there.
Nearby residents said Friday morning’s shooting is an example of concerns they have had, but are worried closing the park is only a short-term solution.
“It’s a good thing for the safety of the neighborhood and the safety of the children,” the woman living nearby said. “But at the same time we feel for the homeless because now where are they going to go? And basically it’s going to push them into another area and nothing is really going to be solved.”
A banner reading “Housing Not Handcuffs” is hanging inside Harborside Park as the homeless await the park closure, and nearby residents await the homeless’ next moves.
Chula Vista City leaders said Friday they plan to put up a fence around the park during the closure. When asked Friday, city leaders could not immediately answer if there would be any citations, or what will happen if someone is caught still living in the park after the closure.
Police said the suspects do not appear to be homeless and the motive is under investigation.
“Though three of the suspects from the group are now in the custody of the San Diego Police Department, we believe there are other suspects among the original group who are still outstanding,” the press release from Chula Vista Police Department said Friday.
Anyone with more information about the crime or the suspects is asked to contact San Diego County Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477 or submit a tip via P3tips (online or mobile application) http://p3tips.com/409 if they wish to remain anonymous.