On the evening of May 24th, seventeen year old Fernando Sandoval was walking through South Tacoma’s Manitou Park with his girlfriend. Also at the park were three other boys and one of their girlfriends. Two of the boys were also seventeen. One was fifteen. The fifteen year old had a gun.
One of the seventeen year olds recognized Fernando because his cousin had been in a fight with him. He started yelling at Fernando. Fernando ran. The three boys chased after him and the lead boy told the fifteen year old to shoot. The fifteen year old instead handed him the gun. There were several gunshots and then Fernando Sandoval was dead. The three boys ran off yelling gang taunts.
The three boys have been arrested and are being charged as adults.
You may have noticed I haven’t mentioned the names of the three boys. This is intentional. Whenever possible, I avoid mentioning the names of people involved in a murder if only because I don’t think they should get any credit. Especially when it comes to gang-related crime, a good part of the reason these murders happen is to build ‘street-cred’. I’m a firm believer that criminals should not profit from their crimes. Not with money or fame. Not to mention, I may not be able to do anything about the fact that another citizen of Tacoma has been murdered, but I can at the very least respect the victim by denying their killer any notoriety.
Gang killings like this used to be almost a weekly occurrence in Tacoma. Living in South Tacoma in the early 90’s, I went to bed regularly to the sound of gunshots and police sirens. I had a collection of shell casings from nearby drive-by shootings.
By the late 90’s, gang crime had gone down in Tacoma. This was due to a lot of factors, but one of the major ones was Tacoma’s Anti-Gang Unit which was disbanded in the late 90’s. In May 2006, it became clear that gangs were once again becoming a significant issue in Tacoma, especially on the East Side and South End. A new Anti-Gang Unit was formed.
During the past year, the Anti-Gang Unit has lost two officers to the undercover narcotics squad and lost its funding when the 2007/08 budget did not include additional money for the Unit. However, Tacoma Police Chief Don Ramsdell has managed to the keep the unit operating.
Really though, anyone who knows Tacoma, should know that an Anti-Gang Unit should be a permanent addition to the Tacoma Police. Just look at what they’ve done in the past year. Over 995 arrests, 65 guns confiscated, and the award for the Northwest Gang Investigators Association’s 2006 gang unit of the year. It is because of units like this that there aren’t more murders like that of Fernando Sandoval. It’s also because of units like this that when a murder like this happens, it is solved and solved quickly.
In other gang-related news, the killer of Rhaczio “RhaRha” Simms was sentenced to 60 years in prison for his involvement in the shooting last year outside of Club Friday which left Simms dead, and an innocent bystander paralyzed.
It was this killing that actually caused the Tacoma Police Department to respond by creating the Anti-Gang Unit.
Sixty years is a lot longer than most killers get in cases like this, but the killer had a lot going against him. He started shooting on a crowded street. He killed someone. He hit a bystander. He was in a gang. Each of these factors has a sentence and added up, it equals about sixty years.
Not that he’ll actually do that amount of time. He’s already talking about appeals. He called the sentence “B.S.”. But really, what’s B.S. is the fact that after being convicted, this killer gets another chance for a lesser sentence. This is a chance his victims never had.