A turf war between rival Norteño gang members in two cities may have sparked a shooting Sunday night in East Palo Alto that killed a 16-year-old and injured two other teenagers, police said.
In a message to residents posted on Facebook, police Chief Ron Davis blamed a single gang for the bloody unrest.
"We believe the recent spate of violence is caused by an internal power struggle within the Norteños" in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park, Davis wrote.
Just before 11 p.m., officers responded to a report of gunfire on the 2800 block of Fordham Street, according to a news release from the East Palo Alto Police Department.
There they found Jose Luis Quinones, a student at Woodside High School, who sustained multiple gunshot wounds and died at the scene. Two other male youths, a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old, also had been shot, and were transported to a hospital with minor injuries, police said.
The victims had been sitting together inside a parked car when unknown suspects approached and fired multiple rounds into the vehicle before fleeing, possibly in a waiting gray or silver sedan, according to police. A fourth person in the car, a 17-year-old male teenager, was not hit by the gunfire.
Since January, there have been five homicides and more than 50 firearm assaults, according to East Palo Alto police. At about 9:30 p.m. Saturday, a driveby shooting on the 2500 block of Farrington Avenue wounded a 17-year-old East Palo Alto resident in the foot.
Acting Detective Sgt. Angel Sanchez said police believe the 16-year-old Quinones, an East Palo Alto resident, was a Norteño gang member and the other teenagers in the car may have also been affiliated with the gang as members or "associates." Police have found pictures of Quinones posted on social media sites flashing the gang sign of the Norteños, Sanchez said.
"All of the shootings we've had recently have been Norteños or associates -- East Palo Alto Norteños or Menlo Park Norteños -- for territory," Sanchez said, adding that it's unusual to have members of the same gang feuding, even if they live in different areas.
At Woodside High on Monday, a memorial for Quinones was set up in the quad area with flowers and pictures. Students wrote messages of condolence on pieces of white paper posted on a wall. "RIP Jose Luis. Gone But Never Forgotten" was written in large letters in the center. Quinones played football for Woodside last year as a freshman, said the school's athletic director, Wendy Porter. Although she did not know Quinones personally, Porter said the school community was "very sad for his family."
In response to the spike in violence, Davis has instituted a "crime emergency" that allows the department to cancel days off and make quick assignment changes. The city's police will be aided by the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, which plans to deploy a multi-agency tactical team to focus specifically on the violence.
Sanchez said without the intervention, more shootings are inevitable.
"We're not going to allow these guys to take over this town," Sanchez said. "The city's going to be saturated with law enforcement 24-7."