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Sunday, 24 July 2011

Gang units arrest suspects in Kearns park shootout

16:25 |

Police put several suspected gang members behind bars on Friday during an early-morning raid that took SWAT teams to seven homes in the Kearns area.

The raid stems from a shootout between two gangs at a Kearns park on July 12.

Police say the shootout was prompted by an ongoing feud between the two gangs.

Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder told ABC 4 News he hopes the arrests send a powerful message to gang members. Winder hopes gang members will consider the lives of innocent bystanders.

Witnesses to the July 12th shooting remember kids playing on swings in the playground at the Mountain Man Park on 4935 S. Heath Avenue.

They also remember the joys of summer interrupted by gunfire.

“They were just shooting and running and I was trying to get to my daughter," said one witness.

Police say two rival gangs were shooting it out in the open, leaving the Kearns neighborhood shaken.

Winder said, “They are certainly the gutsiest of the gutsiest, and I mean that in a negative way.”

Early Friday Salt Lake County Unified police officers and members of the Metro Gang Unit fought back.

160 members of law enforcement canvassed the west side of Kearns, raiding homes of two rival gangs.

One neighbor, Elizabeth Starr, told ABC 4 “I am glad police are being so thorough and putting people away that have made those bad choices.”

Unified police made seven arrests, including a 14-year old and two 17-year olds considered to be the main shooters.

“They are the ones that are probably the most dangerous within these two organizations,” said Winder.

The sheriff said he hopes the arrests mark an end to a summer of violence.

According to Winder, the two gangs clashed two other times, including a shootout at a convenience store and a fight the day after the park shooting.

"We believe that it has literally cut the head off this particular problem. Now, will it end it forever? No, but what it does do is send a message that if you go into our communities and engage in this kind of behavior we're coming after you with every asset we have," said Winder.

The shooting has left Mountain Man Park empty. Families are afraid to return.

Yet, some wonder if the arrests will make a difference.

Nancy Valley, who lives in the neighborhood told ABC 4 News, “I don't know. Whatever is going on isn't right, either, but we're good neighbors and we don't deserve this."

Two of the main suspects were 17 year olds, but prosecutors say they could be charged as adults. If that happens and they're convicted, gun and gang enhancements could put these teens in prison for many years.

Two other adults associated with the two gangs were also arrested. The father of one of the gangsters is an illegal immigrant and another man, Aaron Campbell was booked in jail for being an ex-con in possession of a gun.


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