San Jose Christmas Fete Marred By Double Shooting

San Jose, California, has spent decades revitalizing its downtown area, but gunfire bloodied the sprawling city’s annual “Christmas in the Park” Friday night, casting a shadow over a centerpiece of the sprawling city’s efforts to renew its core district.

Shootings broke up the festivities, as police were called to East San Fernando and Second Streets, just a block away from the brightly-lit, if snow-free, holiday display. There they found an as-yet unidentified man lying in a parking lot with wounds that may prove life-threatening, according to the San Jose Mercury News reporter on the scene.

Hundreds of Christmas revelers were enjoying the festivities just yards away, as four shots pierced the night air.

“I ducked, a lot of people ducked, but no one ran,” said a witness, Ben Rodriguez, who was crossing the street at the intersection where the shooting was reported. “I thought they were firecrackers at first.”

Another witness, who asked that name be kept confidential, told local TV station KPIX Channel 11 that there were five or six shots.

The parking lot victim was transported to a nearby hospital. Another victim suffered only minor injuries. The more seriously wounded victim suffered “critical injuries and is in surgery,” according to San Jose police.

Police are investigating but currently cannot say what sparked the shooting.

“Obviously, we have a lot of witnesses,” said San Jose Police Lieutenant Johnson Fong. “There are hundreds of people around here.”

Those witnesses believe they know what happened. Food vendor Tina Johnson said she saw, a “youngster” who “put a gun in his waistband and kept running toward Santa Clara (Street).” She believes the incident was a street gang shootout.

She told the Mercury News that shortly after the shots were fired, a large number of young men who appeared to be in an agitated state and who she pegged as gang members, appeared in the area.

Gang violence has been a problem in San Jose, a city whose population of just under one million makes it California’s third-largest.

There was an earlier gang shootout a mere two blocks from the site of Friday’s gunfire exchange. That August incident claimed the life of a bystander, 19-year-old nursing student Kimberly Joyce Estrada Chico, who was sitting in the passenger seat of a car when a stray bullet from the crossfire struck and killed her.

The San Jose Police Department sounded triumphant in the summer when it released statistics touting a 40 percent drop in gang homicides in just the previous year. But an investigation by NBC Bay Area News revealed that the police were cooking the books, defining “gang related homicides” by much narrower criteria than ever before.

San Jose Police Chief Larry Esquivel issued a public apology for the deceptive stats.

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