Stockton, a California city hit hard by the recession, was the scene of a drive-by shooting Tuesday night, in which seven people were shot, three of them fatally.
An unknown gunman shot at a group of people gathered outside a corner market parking lot in an impoverished Stockton neighborhood. The parking lot is known to Stockton police as a meeting spot for gang members and drug dealers, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The shooting occurred at about 8:20 p.m., and witnesses say the shots may have come from a semiautomatic. Two women were killed: A 27-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene, and a 20-year-old died later at the hospital, KCRA reported. A 24-year-old man also died at the hospital.
The injured – three men aged 28, 25 and 32, and a woman, 20 – are expected to recover from their injuries, News10 reported.
Stockton police officer Joe Silva was shocked by the shooting, he told KCRA.
"We are investigating a triple-homicide. We had seven people shot. In my 19-year career in the city of Stockton, I have not seen seven people shot in one night."
"Since this is a high-crime neighborhood known for gang and narcotic activity, it's hard for uniformed (officers) or detectives to get information at the scene just because people don't want to be labeled as that snitch."
This is par for the course in Stockton, where unemployment is at 15 percent and the police force has shrunk to dangerous lows since the recession hit. A record number of homeowners in Stockton lost their homes in 2008, and the city filed for bankruptcy in 2012 – the largest to do so before Detroit.
Since its police officers left the city for better opportunities elsewhere, its force shrunk to 320 officers and Stockton was named California's second most dangerous city, according to the Times. For Stockton grandmother Roxanna Thomas, the violence – and Tuesday's shooting – make her think of one thing: Her granddaughter.
"She's just out here. I just want her to come home because that's why I've been here all these hours. That could be her right there."