An Open Letter to the Monrovia Community
April 25, 2017
As you may have heard by now, on the evening of Saturday, April 22, 2017, there was a violent and tragic shooting at 134 West Cypress Street in Monrovia. The incident left one 18-year-old Monrovia resident dead, and another 17-year-old resident of unincorporated Monrovia in critical condition. Additionally, we are aware at this time that both of the shooting victims were Monrovia Unified School District students, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families at this time.
Given the active investigation that is ongoing, there are few details about the shooting that the City can share. However, we are aware that this violent incident has inspired a great deal of speculation, which has resulted in the spread of inaccurate information being distributed in the news and across social media about gang crimes occurring in our City and region. To that end, we wanted to provide some factual information about the context for this incident and details about the City’s substantial and continuing efforts to curb gang violence in our community.
Regarding the most recent shooting, we do know that a Hispanic male in his early to mid-20s is the suspected shooter that law enforcement authorities are currently looking for. It appears that the shooter entered the rear garage located at 134 West Cypress Street through a back alley on the evening of April 22, 2017, at around 11:30 p.m. Upon his entrance, the suspected shooter encountered three individuals gathered in the garage, including the two Hispanic males and one Hispanic female. It is unknown at this time what the suspected shooter’s motivations were.
However, after a brief verbal exchange, the suspect proceeded to open fire and shot the two male victims, killing one individual and injuring the other. After opening fire, the suspected shooter fled the scene on foot into the alley located at the rear of the residence. Homicide investigators from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department are now investigating the case, which is the standard protocol for most murder investigations in our region because of the sophisticated tools and resources available at the County.
We recognize that any shooting causes real and legitimate fear in the community. However, as news of this recent incident has been shared, unrestrained speculation has resulted in reports that Monrovia has a significant gang problem. Such accounts are simply inaccurate. In reality, our community has very little gang activity, due primarily to proactive gang violence reduction efforts that the City has instituted during the past 10 years. As a result, there are virtually no gang members living in Monrovia today.
Back in 2007, Monrovia, Duarte, and the surrounding unincorporated Los Angeles County areas did experience a significant spike in gang violence and hundreds of gang members lived in the region. Much of the gang activity at that time was race-based, with significant conflicts between African American and Hispanic gangs. When confronted with this issue, Monrovia began working to remove criminal street gang members from our community. One of the City’s most effective measures was implementation of a preliminary gang injunction in 2009, which was eventually expanded to serve as a permanent injunction against the gangs in 2010. The injunction is still in place today and serves as a critical tool in the City’s efforts to identify and remove gang members from our community.
In addition to the gang injunction, the City has also worked for years alongside our neighborhood leaders to develop strategies to eliminate gang elements from Monrovia. For example, our Police Department has coordinated with community members to put pressure on landlords who rent to criminals, and in every case we have pursued, that pressure from residents and the City resulted in landlords evicting criminal tenants. Our Police Department staff have also assisted landlords in their efforts to evict criminal tenants by appearing in court to testify in contested evictions, while also providing landlords with information about ways to rent to responsible individuals.
After years of hard work, we have seen results here in Monrovia. Today, there are less than 10 gang members who live in our community, and because of our efforts, we have seen a major drop in both violent crime and gang crime in Monrovia during the past decade.
Unfortunately, the rest of our region has not been as proactive in working to remove gang members from their communities. For example, Duarte did not participate in the gang injunction. This means that the Hispanic gang and the Crip gang in Duarte have been unaffected by our injunction.
Also, while Los Angeles County did participate in the injunction (which applies to gang members living in the unincorporated areas surrounding Monrovia and Duarte), the County does not have the same type of focused community policing programs that we have in Monrovia, and they have not had the same success that we have had in removing gang members from the unincorporated areas surrounding our City.
These regional factors have resulted in many gang members still living in the areas to the south and to the east of Monrovia. And beginning in 2016, similar to the violence we saw in 2007, gang activity has erupted in our region. The gang violence has primarily been between the Crip gang in the unincorporated areas surrounding Duarte / Monrovia, the Hispanic gang in Duarte, and a Blood gang in Pasadena. And there have been multiple gang related shootings and homicides in Duarte, Pasadena, and the unincorporated Los Angeles County areas.
Throughout this recent surge in gang activity, Monrovia has avoided most of the violence because we have so few gang members living in our community. In fact, the City experienced very little gang crime in 2016. However, the reality is that gang members living in the region drive through Monrovia, visit friends / family in our City, and shop at our businesses. These factors, coupled with the few gang members who still live in town, leaves open the possibility that gang violence may occur here in Monrovia.
To that end, in addition to the most recent shooting we experienced on April 22, 2017, there have been three other recent instances of violent activity in Monrovia, which include:
1. On February 9, 2017, a male Hispanic gang member shot at a subject who was not a gang member in the 100 block of Los Angeles Street. Fortunately, the victim was not hit and Monrovia Police Officers quickly apprehended the shooter, along with two accomplices. In addition, City investigators were able to locate the gun that was used in the shooting, and the suspect is now awaiting trial. It is important to note that the shooter had been convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in Ontario, California in 2015. Because of California’s early prisoner release policies, he was out of prison in 9 months and had come to visit a friend in Monrovia when he committed another assault, this time with a handgun.
2. On March 29, 2017, a subject was at a store in the 400 block of East Duarte road when he was shot at by a gang member while sitting in his vehicle. The victim, who was hit, fled the scene to his residence in the unincorporated area of Duarte, where his family then called for help. This was a case where rival gang members from areas outside the City were involved in a shooting at a business in Monrovia. The victim will survive his injuries and the investigation is ongoing.
3. On April 7, 2017, a drive by shooting occurred in the 100 block of East Los Angeles Street. During the incident, no one was hit and no one was injured. The shooting took place at a residence where Crip gang members associate, and the investigation is continuing. At this time, it has not yet been determined if the shooting was gang related or if the incident was provoked because of a drug related deal. Furthermore, while the Monrovia Police Department has been aware of the issues at this location, we have been unable to evict the residents because they own the home. However, the City has taken proactive measures in an attempt to resolve the issues at this problem address, including the installation of high definition surveillance cameras that monitor the entire street on a 24/7 basis.
It is always unacceptable when a shooting occurs in town, and last weekend’s shooting that resulted in the death of a Monrovia resident is a tragedy that will be thoroughly investigated. As we move forward, additional public information will be released when possible. However, as the process unfolds, we did want to make the community aware that there is a lot of inaccurate information about the shooting incident that is being spread on social media, including statements made that the second victim had died, which is not true.
There are also many inaccurate sentiments being shared that Monrovia is centrally involved in the regional gang violence that has been occurring since 2016. We have outlined in this correspondence all of the possible recent gang-related shooting incidents that have occurred in Monrovia. While it is true that gang activity spills into our City at times, the facts illustrate that gang violence is primarily originating from other areas where Monrovia has no jurisdiction. Furthermore, with regard to the latest April 22, 2017, shooting incident, it has yet to be determined if the matter is even gang related.
While social media can be a helpful way to share accurate information, it also frequently causes the spread of false information, as has been the case recently.
Here in our Monrovia, we have taken, and we continue to take, great efforts to reduce gang violence.
And our efforts have produced real results. As the chart below illustrates, violent gang crime in Monrovia has been significantly reduced over the years.
As we have worked together over the past ten years, Monrovia was able to reduce the number of gang members living in our community to make our City a safer place.
As we continue working together as a community, all of us here at the City are confident that we will be able to solve the real public safety issues that Monrovia faces today.
If you have any questions regarding this matter, please feel free to contact City Manager Oliver Chi (626-932-5501, email@example.com) or Police Chief Jim Hunt (626-256-8095, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Source: City of Monrovia
- Brad Haugaard