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Sentinel staff report–
A fatal shooting in February near Sylvan Corners left one man dead, followed by a vehicle being struck by gunfire less than 36 hours later on Antelope Road. Fast forward just 11 days to Valentine’s Day, and another shooting occurred at an apartment complex on Fair Oaks Boulevard that left one man wounded.
Most recently, Citrus Heights police responded to a May 8 shooting outside the 7440 Club on Auburn Boulevard, followed by another shooting near the same location the next weekend.
Citrus Heights Police Lt. Michael Wells confirmed police have responded to a total of nine “firearm incidents” in the city so far this year, seven of which he said were determined to have been intentional shootings, rather than an accidental or negligent discharge of a weapon.
Compared to the same period last year, of Jan. 1 to May 23, police statistics show there were four firearms incidents in 2020, with only one of those deemed to have been intentional.
Editor’s note: The fatal shooting near Sylvan Corners is included in The Sentinel’s tally of eight shootings, but the incident is still under investigation and police have not yet said whether it is classified as intentional.
Asked for comment on the increase in shootings, Citrus Heights Police Chief Ron Lawrence said it’s a natural instinct for residents to be alarmed at violent crime in the area, but called for a “macro-view” approach to look at root causes.
“It’s pretty simple in my view,” said Lawrence in an emailed statement on Saturday. “In this era we are living that has far less accountability for criminals, it should not come as any surprise to Californians that there would be an increase in serious crime.”
Lawrence said increases in violent crime are being seen throughout the state, and pointed to early prison releases, prison closures and lessened criminal penalties as contributing factors.
“I anticipate crime in California to increase unless significant policy changes are made at the state level, and I am not holding my breath for that to happen,” said Lawrence. “Criminals seem to have become embolden by statewide, rapid policy changes that have significantly reduced accountability for breaking the law. Our prisons and jails have become a revolving door and our police officers are doing the best we can under the new-normal.”
Advocates for criminal justice reform on the other hand argue that past policy has led to over-incarceration and hasn’t made communities safer, instead calling for rehabilitation and more lenient sentencing. Lawrence said he supports constantly seeking “better ways to avoid incarceration,” but cautioned that such alternatives must take into account the victims and impacts of crime.
While Lawrence did not address gun laws in his comments, gun control advocates cite instances of shootings as a reason for more strict laws to be passed regarding the sale and possession of firearms. Citrus Heights Councilman Bret Daniels said he disagrees.
“Guns are definitely not the issue,” said Daniels. “California has some of the strictest guns law in America. Criminals don’t care about laws so why would anyone think they would care about stricter gun laws.”
Asked to comment in general on the increase in shootings, Daniels said “it’s impossible to say just why there has been an increase,” but he speculated the reason could be related to COVID-19, among other reasons.
“It’s something the country is experiencing just about everywhere,” Daniels said in an email Saturday. “Maybe Covid-19 related from pent up anger? Maybe a lack of civility due to the attacks on law enforcement? Maybe a culture that says just do whatever you want? Maybe a result of letting thousands of people out of prison and letting people arrested out of jail without bail. Whatever it is, it is unacceptable and I’m glad to at least see arrests in almost all of the incidents.”
Arrests have been made in five shootings this year. Most recently, police on Thursday announced the arrest of a 36-year-old suspect in the May 16 shooting on Auburn Boulevard, preceded by the arrest of a “validated gang member” who police believe was one of the shooters in the nearby May 8 incident.
Police also made arrests following a shooting in April at La Fiesta Taqueria, and in a Valentine’s Day shooting which detectives believe was a drug robbery involving marijuana. A suspect was also arrested in a Jan. 15 shooting involving roommates, where one round was fired but no one was struck.
The only fatal shooting in Citrus Heights was on Feb. 1 on Gallant Circle, where a man called police and said he had shot someone in his driveway. The deceased man’s mother told CBS 13 that her son had been visiting friends, but was unsure of what led to the shooting.
Lt. Wells described the case as on-going and said “the involved party was identified and the District Attorney’s office and our investigators are reviewing the case.” Police have not said whether that shooting was intentional.
Lawrence described this year’s shootings as being “isolated incidents with known suspects, most of whom have been identified and many already captured.”
“Some of our shootings appear to have been gang related, and some were family, friends or acquaintances,” he said. “None of the shootings have caused us alarm as random shootings by an unknown assailant, and I am proud to say that your Citrus Heights police department continues to work hard with the limited resources we have, to keep our community as safe as possible.”
Mayor Steve Miller was also sent an email request for comment on this story at noon Saturday, but did not respond by press deadline Saturday night.
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