SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sacramento police said Wednesday that it appears at least five shooters fired guns during Sunday’s massacre in downtown, which killed six people and injured 12.
Officials are still trying to determine the motive for the violence but said in a statement, “... it is increasingly clear that gang violence is at the center of this tragedy. While we cannot at this time elaborate on the precise gang affiliation of individuals involved, gangs and gang violence are inseparable from the events that drove these shootings.”
Police on Tuesday announced two arrests, including one man with a long rap sheet who is currently hospitalized with bullet wounds. That man, Smiley Martin, 27, will be booked at Sacramento County Main Jail on suspicion of “possession of a firearm by a prohibitive person and possession of a machine gun” as soon as his medical treatments are complete, police said.
A law enforcement source said that Smiley Martin and his brother are associated with a Crips gang while others involved have ties to a Bloods gang that historically is a rival.
Martin is the brother of another suspect, Dandrae Martin, arrested a day earlier on suspicion of assault with a firearm and being a felon in possession of a gun.
Police also announced a third arrest on Tuesday, 31-year-old Daviyonne Dawson, who was seen carrying a gun in the aftermath of the shooting, but did not actually fire it. Dawson is not accused of involvement in the melee, but faces charges of being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm. He had been released on bail by Tuesday afternoon.
“This tragedy downtown is a very public example of what families in many of our neighborhoods know too well, “ said Sacramento Police Chief Kathy Lester in a statement Wednesday. “The suffering inflicted by gang violence does not limit itself to gang members. It spills over to claim and shatter innocent lives and harm our entire community.”
Neighborhood violence supercharged by gangs has plagued Sacramento for years. But in the capital city, that gang violence is often underpinned by allegiances to local rappers, including Mozzy, who has risen to national success.
In 2017, gang violence spurred by diss tracks — videos or songs that talk smack about others — led to a series of shootings that prompted the City Council to invest millions into neighborhood-based violence prevention programs, including those that put formerly incarcerated people into the communities where they had previously lived in an attempt to act as peace ambassadors.
At the time those programs were established, they were meant to target about 50 young Black and Latino men and boys who were thought to be most at risk for violence, based on community input, law enforcement analysis and other factors.
While the pandemic pushed many of those local neighborhood arguments out of the public sphere, they never went away. Zach Eaton, the spokesperson for the Sacramento Police Department and a former gang investigator, said that the city had “some long-standing gang feuds.”
Eaton said investigators did not know if the current situation had any ties to the rap feuds that led to the last spate of violence, but added that “investigators are still working through that angle.”
Even before police confirmed the gang involvement Wednesday, violence prevention advocates were lamenting the groups allegedly involved in Sunday’s carnage.
“The politics of the streets has come down to show its ugly face downtown,” said Berry Accius, whose Voice of the Youth leadership program is focused on gun violence prevention. He added that gang culture is increasingly being commercialized and glorified, and it needs to end.
“We have so much diligence and energy when it’s time to out a murderous cop, but we lack that same kind of energy and passion when it comes to our own,” Accius said. “The negativity and the violence in our community, if we could change that that would probably fix a lot of the other problems that we have that are layered.”
As police go forward, their complex crime investigation involves interviews with dozens of witnesses, reviews of camera footage, and processing more than 100 shell casings that littered the sidewalk, street, and nearby buildings. Eaton said detectives are also reviewing more than 170 videos and social media posts submitted by the public.
Among them is one posted just hours before the shooting featuring Smiley Martin wielding a stolen fully automatic weapon later found at the crime scene, according to law enforcement sources. That post has since been taken off social media.
Smiley’s brother Dandrae appeared in Sacramento Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon on a single charge of illegally possessing a weapon. He was wearing an orange jumpsuit and keeping his back to the media scrum there to photograph him.
He was represented by one of Sacramento’s top defense lawyers, Linda Parisi, appointed to the case due to an overload at the public defender’s office. Parisi asked that the case be continued without a plea being entered, and the court ordered Martin to return on April 26. He will remain in custody.
“It’s more than just the criminal justice system. As a community, we need to address gun violence,” she said. “We are failing everyone. We are failing our young people.”
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, a longtime advocate for gun control, struck a similar theme Tuesday, announcing that he will join legislative leaders and criminal justice reform advocates Wednesday to call for “immediate and substantial investments in crime prevention and healing services for crime victims.”
In an interview, Steinberg said Sacramento has spent tens of millions of dollars on “early intervention and gang prevention” but needs to do even more. “And we need to help out law enforcement officials to get more illegal guns off the street.”
On Wednesday, Steinberg joined social justice groups and two Los Angeles Democrats, state Sen. Maria Elena Durazo and Assemblyman Miguel Santiago in calling for a $3-billion investment in crime prevention. “California must take even bolder steps now to meet the needs of our state’s most vulnerable communities who, after two years of the pandemic and related economic hardships, are struggling more than ever,” the group said in a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders.
Just a short walk from the crime scene, legislators in the Capitol vowed to do more to address gun violence in a state that already has the nation’s strictest gun laws. “Our message to California is simple,” Sen. Bob Hertzberg said Tuesday. “The Legislature will act to stop this plague of gun violence. We have to.”
He added: “Let me tell you something, if it takes another 107 gun laws to be able to stop this senseless gun violence, it’s the right thing to do.”
As the legislators debated, family members mourned their loved ones, and police continued to process evidence, social media posts of the violence began circulating, including from some of those allegedly involved as perpetrators.
In one from Facebook, posted shortly before 5 a.m. on Monday, Dandrae Martin — who was reportedly injured in the melee — offered a status update that read: “Smh I’m hit…” In the comments, friends asked the status of his brother Smiley and said they were praying for him.
Based on social media accounts, one of those shot and killed, Joshua Hoye-Lucchesi, 32, appeared to be friends with the Martins, posting a photo with Smiley just last month.
Hours before the shooting, Hoye-Lucchesi uploaded videos on Instagram showing him and others brandishing weapons, including a gun with a red laser.
In another post, a graphic YouTube video that went live Monday seemingly showed the aftermath of the shooting. Police officers tried to treat people lying along the street, as friends and others gathered around.
“Please tell me what to do,” one woman pleaded with an officer, as she knelt over a body. “I’ll help you.”
“Help me roll her over,” the officer responded. He later said they needed the fire department to respond.
The person narrating the video said they heard “like 70 shots, 80 shots.” Up and down the street, people screamed out to one another and asked for help.
The video showed at least five people on the ground.
“Breathe, buddy,” one person said. “Keep breathing.”
Nearby, a CHP officer checked a woman’s pulse. She lay completely still.
A little farther away, an officer asked someone to look for anywhere else a victim might have been hit.
“There’s people dead everywhere,” the man recording the video said.
Chabria and Garrison reported from Sacramento; Mejia and Winton reported from Los Angeles. Los Angeles Times staff writers Jim Rainey in Los Angeles and Hannah Wiley in Sacramento contributed to this story.