By Robert Rogers
RICHMOND -- Police were a conspicuous presence in Iron Triangle neighborhoods Wednesday, a day after a brazen daylight shooting in front of a throng of people left a 19-year-old man dead and prompted the city's police chief to vow to step up patrols to stem the latest wave of violence.
With six people wounded and one killed in a four-day span, public safety and community leaders looked for answers to the uptick in gang tensions that appears to be fueling the gun violence. The three shootings all happened in broad daylight in central and south Richmond neighborhoods since Saturday.
Public safety officials say new rivalries have emerged in recent months, pitting south Richmond neighborhoods against former allies in central Richmond.
"It's brazen, and that's troubling," said Felix Hunziker, chairman of the city's Police Commission. "That said, they seem like targeted shootings. I don't think the general public should have a lot to fear, but if you're in a gang or could be mistaken for being in a gang, you're probably in some danger out there."
Police Chief Chris Magnus responded to the violence late Tuesday with an 850-word statement posted toon the department's Facebook page. In it, he pledged more patrols and also emphasized that the "underlying conditions that lead to being part of a gang ... are very present and challenging in our city."
" ... when gang leaders or 'shot callers' are successfully prosecuted, there are many younger folks -- some as young as 14 or 15 -- ready to take their place and become involved in committing serious acts of violence," Magnus wrote.
On Wednesday, a curbside memorial marked the scene where Dimarea Young was gunned down Tuesday morning while jogging with his father, brother and about 20 classmates in a city vocational program at Virginia Avenue and 28th Street. Witnesses said the killer targeted Young, shot him and fired into his body as he lay in the street before hopping into a white SUV and riding off. The RichmondBUILD facility a few paces away was closed, and will remain so all week.
No arrests have been made in the shooting.
Overall, shootings are about on pace with last year, according to Richmond police statistics. There have been 37 reported shootings to date this year, compared with 38 by this point last year and 40 in 2011.
Only three shootings have resulted in death this year, not including a March homicide at the Richmond BART station that is not in the city's jurisdiction, compared with seven to this point last year. Twenty-six homicides were recorded in the city in 2011 and 18 in 2012, both well below the past decade's average of more than 30 per year.
But beyond the recent days' bloodshed, the last month has been marked by flurries of daytime gunfire in populated areas, including a 1-year-old baby wounded in the neck when a bullet strafed the child's apartment building and a 33-year-old man shot and killed in front of dozens of rush-hour passengers on the front steps of the Richmond BART station.
Richmond's Office of Neighborhood Safety, the only city-supported crime-intervention department of its kind in the region, is also reacting to the wave of violence. ONS agents work with violent offenders and gang members to steer them away from street violence and into jobs and education.
ONS Director Devone Boggan said Tuesday that his staff is grappling with a new reality on Richmond's streets, a shift from traditional rivalries between gangs in unincorporated North Richmond and the central part of the city, to the south and central neighborhoods.
"We have a new dynamic, a situation where guys who once ran together may be shooting at each other now," Boggan said.
Boggan added that street tensions are at peak "volatility."
"We have a small group of young men not interested in help and committed to kill," Boggan said. "Unless we can get them off the street ... or they decide they care about living, we may be in for some challenging days ahead."
On Wednesday, several ONS agents were in the south Richmond neighborhood where Young was killed, a grid of older homes known as "The 20s" because of their placement between 20th and 29th streets. ONS agents typically work in hot spots after shootings to try to dissuade retaliation and communicate with family and friends. Police cruisers intermittently glided by.
Young's father, Kitric Young, 40, addressed what he called a "peace vigil" held Wednesday night at the corner where his son was killed. More than 100 people gathered in the street, including Magnus, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and other local leaders.
"I want the violence to stop," Young said. "No retaliation. I don't want any other parents or loved ones to feel the hurt that I feel."
Several mourners broke into wailing cries while local clergy led the group in a prayer.