Three separate shooting incidents in Santa Maria Friday night left one person dead and four others hospitalized, according to the Santa Maria Police Department.
The most serious attack occurred shortly before 8 p.m. on the 1500 block of South Thornburg Street near West Enos Drive, police said.
One man was declared dead at the scene, and a second was critically wounded and flown by CalStar medical helicopter to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, Sgt. Steve Lopez said.
A third victim was in stable condition at Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria.
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About two hours earlier, a man was shot in the 1200 block of West Bethel Lane.
That victim, who suffered gunshot wounds to his upper torso, also was reported to be in stable condition at Marian.
A third shooting incident occurred at about 9:30 p.m. in the 1100 block of West Williams Street, Lopez said.
That victim brought himself to to Marian, Lopez said, and also was in stable condition.
All three shootings occurred outdoors, Lopez said, and investigators had no suspects in any of the attacks as of late Friday night.
Lopez said it was not known of the shootings were related, “but we’re investigating the possibility.”
There were some “sketchy witnesses” to all three shootings, he said, but they were generally uncooperative.
The slaying victim was identified as Ulises Garcia-Mendez, 17.
Detectives remained on scene at all three shootings late Friday night.
It was the 10th homicide in Santa Maria this year, and as many as five of the earlier murders have connections to gangs. Police believe the increase in violence is related to a war between the city’s two primary criminal street gangs.
Police said it was too early to say whether Friday’s nights shootings were gang-related.
“It’s definitely something we’re looking at, but we haven’t been able to confirm one way or the other,” said Sgt. Paul Van Meel, from the detective bureau. “It’s obviously a strong possibility.”
Van Meel said investigating some of the these shootings is especially difficult due to a lack of cooperation from people who know what happened.
“For a lot of these, we just can’t do it without the help of the community if they know or saw what happened,” he said, adding detectives rely on both physical evidence as well as witness statements to investigate crimes. “When no one is forthcoming, it’s frustrating. People are home, people are out and about, and we don’t have a lot to go on right now on any of these.”
He added detectives planned to work Saturday to continue investigating the shootings.
Anyone with information about any of the shootings is asked to contact police at 805.928.3781, ex. 2277.