- The Washington Times - Friday, October 10, 2003

A man fatally shot during a running gun battle among Hispanic gang members had participated in the five-block shootout Thursday in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood in Northwest, D.C. police said yesterday. The shootout also wounded a Metro bus driver.

Milton Roberto Sagastizado, 20, died from a gunshot wound to the leg. Police sources said yesterday that Mr. Sagastizado had ties to a Salvadoran gang and was carrying a gun when he was shot.

Mr. Sagastizado’s 14-year-old brother, Donald, is missing, and Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said he is not ruling out the possibility that the boy’s disappearance could be connected to the shootout.

“We know he’s been reported missing, but we don’t know if that’s due to grief, he didn’t quite know what to do, [or] if he’s thinking he’s going to get some type of retaliation,” Chief Ramsey said. “We just don’t know.”

The police department’s mobile command station was moved to Mount Pleasant Street NW at about 3 p.m. yesterday, where it is expected to be stationed for up to a week. Chief Ramsey said additional patrols would be in place to try to prevent further violence.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams toured Mount Pleasant Street yesterday, stopping to talk with business owners and residents who were shaken by the brazen daylight shootings that began about 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

Police charged Jose Sallamanca, 27, of the 2400 block of 16th Street NW with first-degree murder in Mr. Sagastizado’s killing. Two juveniles also have been charged. A 16-year-old male was charged with assault with intent to kill and a 17-year-old male was charged with carrying a pistol without a license.

Chief Ramsey said the investigation is continuing, though he is not aware of any further suspects. He said there’s no evidence the Hispanic gangs involved in Thursday’s shootout were affiliated with any national gangs.

“These gangs we’re talking about are local gangs,” he said. “These aren’t gangs that have a national reputation, that we know for a fact have different factions around the United States.”

While advocating community involvement and social and educational programs as a long-term solution to the gang problem, Chief Ramsey also displayed frustration with the notion that social problems alone were responsible for the violence.

“We need to stop treating [the criminals] as if they’re innocent children,” he said. “They’re not innocent children. They’re criminals, and they’re committing criminal acts and they’re hurting other people. They need to be locked up. And you can save some of them; others you’ve just got to lock them up because they’re beyond redemption — at least the way I see it. Maybe the clergy can save them. I can’t.”

However, Chief Ramsey acknowledged that the long-term solution to stopping gang violence would have to be comprehensive.

“To think that adding two or three foot patrols along Mount Pleasant is going to end gangs is really foolish,” he said. “I’m not saying we don’t need foot patrols. We’re going to do that stuff. All I’m saying is, don’t act as if that’s going to solve the gang problem, because the gang problem is more complex than that. Suppressing something is different than solving something. And if you want to solve the gang problem you have to go beyond foot patrols and those kinds of things.”

Asked why gangs aren’t targeted for committing lesser crimes before they escalate to violence, Mr. Williams said that was something his administration was “trying to step up.”

“One of the things we’re going to be talking about at the citizens summit is stepping up substantially enforcement of minor crimes. There are two issues there: One is folks’ tolerance for the police going around enforcing every little crime. And we need to talk about that as a city. And the second is a realistic issue, and that is the jail is chock-full right now. We have no place to put people. That is a big problem. And yours truly, and everybody else, we have a horrible record in locating things like jails.”

Mr. Williams also said it is “silly” to think the growth of the city’s Hispanic population is a factor in the increased crime in Hispanic neighborhoods.

He said he would not reconsider a policy that forbids officers from inquiring about a person’s immigration status, unless it comes up during questioning for another offense.

“I don’t think we should get a list of all the Latino youth and run them through immigration and police the immigration laws,” he said.

“I do believe that we ought to work with law enforcement aggressively across the region to collect intelligence. Where it’s shown that there’s reason to question someone, we question them, the same as we question any other American. And then any other question that comes up, comes up. And there’s a difference there.

“I think it’s an important distinction.”

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