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Redlands Teen Murder Arrests Bring Relief, Renewed Concern

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City takes hard line on gang violence

By Chris Levister

Shanita Williams-McCaleb, said she never gave up hope that the person(s) responsible for gunning down her son Quinn would be found.

“A lot of prayer, a lot of tears, and lots of waiting, I didn't know when, but I knew we would reach this point,” she said. “I knew we would. I never gave up the faith. I never gave up hope we would be here.”

Quinn McCaleb, 17, and Andrew Jackson, 16, were killed while visiting with friends at a play area inside the Cinnamon Creek Apartments in north Redlands on Jan. 5, 2011. Two other teens were seriously wounded and a third escaped unhurt.

Redlands police arrested 18-year-old Anthony John Legaspi, 22-year-old John David Salazar and 18-year-old Adrian Powers. They were charged with first degree murder and attempted murder. They were each held on $5 million bail. If convicted, each faces up to 220 years to life in prison.

The fourth suspect, 28-year-old Jose Lara, was charged with accessory after the fact to first degree murder. He was being held on $2.5 million bail and faces up to 7 years behind bars.

Authorities announced the arrests during a press conference March 5 alongside a large group of the victims' family members at the Redlands Police Department.

District At torney Michael A. Ramos said three of the defendants - Legaspi, Salazar and Lara are documented members of a Redlands street gang.

“We are continuing our war on gangs that prey on our citizens, and we will not relent,” Ramos said. “I don't care how long it takes. We will catch you, hold you responsible, and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law, which we will be doing in this case.”

“Early on I made a commitment to the families that I would not let this case die and that we would continue to investigate it,” said Redlands Police Chief Mark Garcia.

“We did in the neighborhood of 250 interviews and served 50 search warrants for this case,” said Garcia.

“No family should have to go through the pain and agony we’ve been through,” said Andrew's grandmother, Freda Robinson.

“We’re hopeful justice will be swift. We have the police, the people who came forward and the community that supported us through this to thank,” she said.

Gai l Howard, whose son survived the shooting, said she plans on being front and center at the murder trial once it begins.

“I will be there with bells on,” Howard said. “I will be there.”

The shooting last year rocked a usually quiet Redlands community. Residents living along a swath in North Redlands between Texas and Church streets and between Lugonia and Colton avenues were surprised and relieved when they learned of the arrests.

“We’re breathing easier now that these guys are off the street,” said Jesse Heath who owns a bicycle shop nearby.

But while the arrests brought a sigh of relief to this hardscrabble community, many here worry the conditions that led to the shootings are ripe for a repeat.

“Justice won’t be done until we fix the hopelessness,” said a woman who recalled hearing the sounds of fleeing footsteps and screaming following the crack of gunfire on a darkened cul-de-sac the night of the shooting,” said Dion Bates.

“Kids don’t have jobs,” said Bates. “They have too much time on their hands so they fall into the wrong crowd.”

The summer job used to be a staple of teenage life said Ralph Bachman, who manages a nearby auto parts store. “Paper routes and ice cream parlors provided work experience, paychecks, and a psychological boost in the form of independence and self-esteem,” “The optimal word is jobs,” said Ginna Parsons, a mental health psychologist who took part in a high profile community march following the shootings.

“Unemployment among teens in this neighborhood is over 60 percent. I’m not surprised to see this kind of trouble,” said Parsons “This 16 to 19 age group is basically your future work force, and if these young people are not in school, are not in the labor force, they're basically disconnected.

They are very vulnerable to gang activity, to incarceration, to homeless. Most are low income and in need of mentoring and financial assistance. If we don't catch these kids early, society is going to have a big bill to pay,” Parsons said.

“Many of these kids can’t afford to buy equipment to play sports. Unfortunately they turn to illegal activities,” said Williams- McCaleb, Quinn’s mother.

“Unfortunately, few youths realize the hazards associated with gang involvement. In many cases, parents are unaware of their children’s gang activity and are unable to intervene until it’s too late,” she said.

The families of McCaleb and Jackson have joined with community members to create the I’m My Brother’s Keeper foundation and awareness campaign.

“The goal is to raise funds to keep youth active and vigilant and to look out for one another,” said Williams-McCaleb.

“Sometimes giving kids money to buy shoes to play sports can make a big difference.”

The foundation is partnering with a local nonprofit called Music Changing Lives (MCL).

The website www.mus i cchangingl ives . org sells buttons and anti-gang bracelets for $1. All proceeds go directly into the foundation, she said.

“We want to use music and other measureable tools to teach kids how to mend disagreements with respect and conversation instead of bullets,” said MCL CEO Josiah Bruny.

“People thought this kind of violence couldn’t happen in Redlands but it did,” said Josie Hernandez. “The question now is what have we learned. What are we going to do to save the children,” she said.

“More police is not the answer. These kids need jobs and education opportunities. They need more parental and community involvement,” said Hernandez.

“The people who shot those kids may go to prison for hundreds of years, but until we get to the bottom of this problem, this tragedy will go down in the history books as just another unfortunate gangbanging.”

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