Gang violence escalates in Chico

Madison Holmes

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Chico State student Austin Mckinsey and his friend Jon Hilton wait in the hospital after the altercation with possible Norteno gang members. Photo courtesy of Austin Mckinsey.

Austin Mckinsey had both of his hands up in
surrender when a fist came out of nowhere and slammed into the right side of
his face, cracking his eye socket in two places and caving in his cheekbone.
The sophomore electrical engineering major was trying to break up a fight between three girls at a party on Seventh and Hickory streets on March 28 when a group of men dressed in red approached him and hit him in the face, he said.

“The guy hit me and I didn’t even see it coming,” Mckinsey said. “The two years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen people gang up on each other like that.”

It’s likely the crime was gang-related, said detective Ben Love of the Chico Police gang unit.

Multiple gang-related incidents occurred throughout Chico on the weekend of April 4, including an attempted murder and arrest at Chico Trailer Haven on Nord Avenue, an assault with a deadly weapon on West First Avenue, an attempted murder in front of LaSalles, according to Chico Police Department press releases.

Two more shootings occurred but have not been confirmed to be gang-related, Love said.

Retribution between gangs can often cause a peak in violence, but Chico Police is still investigating what happened, Love said.

“We don’t know what caused the initial step up in violence over that weekend,” he said.

Typically, Nortenos are a Hispanic gang whose members primarily wear the color red to represent the gang, he said.

Most gang violence is happening after 2 a.m., so people need to make sure to get home earlier and stay away from dark alleys, Love said.

The most important step in avoiding gang violence is to remain together, he said.

“You need to make sure to stay in groups,” Love said. “Lone individuals or small groups are easy to attack.”

The Chico Police gang unit was reinstated in June after being disbanded for almost a year.

The team is not the size it once was and the detectives are always working as much as they can, Love said.

“You can only work with the resources you have,” he said. “Whatever you can do, you do at the same time.”

The investigation on Mckinsey’s case is ongoing, Love said.

Madison Holmes can be reached at [email protected] or @madisonholmes95 on Twitter.

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