A heart once nourished - Page 5

A murder in front of children leaves Ella Hill Hutch Community Center reeling

"One of the victims was a young man scheduled to graduate from high school in June."

On May 25, 2007, 19-year-old Jamar Lake was leaving a store on Laguna and Eddy streets, northeast of Ella Hill, when a teen suspect opened fire on him. Paramedics were so worried about security in the neighborhood that they fled before attempting resuscitation, according to a report from the San Francisco Medical Examiner. Lake died at General Hospital that day.

Weeks later, a manic 12-hour long feud erupted between several gunmen on McAllister Street. Seven people were wounded during two daytime shootings that took place in the Friendship Village Apartments, across the street from Ella Hill.

Then in July, a suspect randomly and fatally stabbed 54-year-old Kenneth Taylor in the neck as he sat on a park bench near sundown at Turk and Fillmore streets, within easy view of the SFPD's Northern Station. Police didn't respond until Taylor stumbled to the sidewalk and collapsed; a witness had to flag down a patrol car.

Following the Lake shooting, the mayor and police department promised, as they had the year before, that foot patrols would be increased in the 193-unit Plaza East Housing Development and other public housing projects in the Western Addition.

But the city's most visible response has bypassed Ella Hill — which has some street credibility — altogether. Instead, City Attorney Dennis Herrera went to court to get injunctions against street gangs in June 2007.

Herrera's initial filing came days after the wild shootout on McAllister Street, but the timing was coincidental. The city attorney also had been preparing injunctions against gangs in the Mission and Bayview-Hunter's Point for months. For the Western Addition, the city attorney noted a "recent rise in violent crimes perpetrated by the defendants," and asked that the members of three gangs be banned from associating with one another inside two "safety zones" marked along the contours of their respective territories, a 14-square-block area that straddles Fillmore Street and rests just north of Ella Hill.

"The conditions within the two safety zones have become particularly intolerable in 2007 as the deadly rivalry between the Uptown alliance and defendant Eddy Rock has intensified," Herrera's office told the court. "In 2007 alone, this rivalry is the suspected cause of at least three homicides and numerous shootings within the two safety zones."

Some critics viewed barring people from congregating with one another a civil rights violation. And worse, they feared it would merely shove more African Americans and Latinos out of the Western Addition, which would benefit the city's wealthiest white residents.

"All of this stuff about gang injunctions is a bunch of malarkey," said Franzo King, archbishop of the Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church on Fillmore Street. "You don't really have gangs here.... [In San Francisco] they're a big club."

Herrera nonetheless convinced a Superior Court judge to issue the injunctions after filing 1,200 pages of evidence arguing that the three "clubs," which include only about 65 people named by the city, are endless public nuisances and force organizations like Ella Hill to battle with them for the affections of Western Addition youth.

Police admit that the injunctions since last year have, in fact, led people to simply leave the neighborhood. Still, they insist the injunctions have reduced trouble in the Western Addition.

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