DELANO, Calif. — A night of shootings in Delano and McFarland have left these two communities devastated. Injuring four people and taking the life of two pre-teens the events have left many wanting answers. 23ABCs Lezla Gooden talked with community leaders about the double murder.
It has been less than 24 hours since police confirmed that two girls were shot and killed in Delano off of Oleander Street Thursday night and three others were injured. Now, community leaders are speaking out against this act of violence.
"I have this to say," said Pastor Mike Salazar, a former gang member and pastor of Set Free Church in Delano. "You are a coward if you do a drive-by shooting. A coward and I am not afraid to say that."
Around 7:30 p.m. on Thursday night gunshots rang out off Oleander Street near 22nd Ave during a birthday party according to family members. The shooting injured three adults and took the lives of two little girls, ages 12 and 11 years old. Police say three adults were shot, but are recovering.
The incident has left many in the community, like Pastor Salazar calling for change and answers for this act of violence.
"We need to somehow get these gang meters in and do whatever it takes and not just say hey you are going to jail," said Salazar. "We need to make impact n their life something.
Delano Police Chief Robert Nevarez explained it's possible the shooting could be gang-related.
"I will say this, the manner which it happened - the car drives up, the suspect got out and approached the group and firing in close distance - is very consistent with MO and operations that we have seen in recent gang-related shootings. Because of that, I believe that it's gang-related although we don’t know that for a fact."
Chief Nevarez said that shootings had been down for a period during COVID-19 up until ten days ago. Last night that all changed.
Just a few hours later at around 10:45 p.m., a woman was hospitalized after she was shot multiple times in McFarland.
Now along with the McFarland Police Department, Chief Nevarez said they have created an operation to address the night of shootings.
"It's not a secret that over the years there has been an ongoing feud from McFarland and Delano. Like back in January we put together a plan that incorporated McFarland PD and Delano PD working together because frequently these shootings are tied together. But right now I can’t prove it and I don’t have evidence that they are connected but I am strongly suspicious that they are."
Pastor Salazar said his heart breaks for the families involved and wants the cycle of violence to end and has this message for anyone involved in this shooting or gang-related activities.
"When you shoot somebody it costs you too much it. It will cost you your life or your family's life. It costs too much. There is somewhere down the line you are going to have to forgive but I get it. It's a lot of hurt involved. But I think if we can get each gang and talk to them individually and finding a goal to get them together - a domino tournament or pool event - something that will get them to lay their guns down."
This is an ongoing investigation and Delano Police are asking the community if they have any information to please come forward to disrupt and stop the violence. They can call the Delano anonymous tip line at 661- 721-3369.