Gangs in Utah Growing

Gangs in Utah Growing

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Jed Boal ReportingPolice have arrested a murder suspect in last night's street shooting and car crash in West Valley City. The injured driver who was in the wrong place at the wrong time is recovering. Gang officers say this shooting shows how explosive gang activity gets.

Gangs in Utah Growing

Across the valley, gangs are not going away. Gang officers say gangs are more active in the summer, but there's a steady undercurrent throughout the year.

Twenty-year old Gene Garza faces a murder charge.

Reporter: "Over a fight? You shot him over a fight?"

Suspect: "Man, you crazy. Do some more investigative reporting."

Police say Garza and rival gang member 17-year-old Guillermo Padilla flashed gang signs and violence erupted.

Capt. Steve Sandquist, West Valley City Police Dept.: "They do have some gang involvements and some gang history, but there seems to be an ongoing history between these two individuals."

As they drove side by side on 41st south police say Garza shot and killed Padilla. Padilla lost consciousness, clipped two cars, and crashed head-on into a car driven by Cindy Comeaux.

Gangs in Utah Growing

Cindy Comeaux, Crash Victim: "I thought, what's he doing, what's he doing?"

Comeaux was headed home when the car careened towards her.

Cindy Comeaux: "Even though I veered, he still was coming on an angle and hit me head-on."

The crash crumpled her car and pinned her in.

Cindy Comeaux: "As the time went on, I started hurting more and more and thought, oh heck, I'm in trouble."

Comeaux is grateful to be alive with a broken arm and shattered foot, another bystander caught in the crossfire.

Cindy Comeaux: "Gangs are terrible. It's silly to get shot out in the middle of the day, and to cause this."

The Salt Lake Metro Gang Unit identifies 40-50 active gangs in the valley. With more than 5,500 documented members that's up about two thousand in three years.

Gangs in Utah Growing

Sgt. Bill Robertson, Salt Lake Metro Gang Unit: "We need to keep a handle on it. We need to focus on it and throw some resources at it, because if we don't, it can explode. Yesterday was a perfect example of that."

The gang officer says we cannot let gangs get a foothold with our kids in our neighborhoods.

Sgt. Bill Robertson, Salt Lake Metro Gang Unit: "The minute we start doing that and looking the other way, we are going to lose some of our neighborhoods, and we are going to have a bigger problem."

Citizen tips are the key for the gang unit. As for the crash victim, Comeaux hopes to leave the hospital tomorrow and feels horrible for the teenager who was shot.

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