Lemoore homicides

This makeshift memorial at a Lemoore apartment complex on Hanford-Armona Road marks the spot where Anthony Magana, 26, of Lemoore, was found on May 17 lying on the ground with stab wounds. Magana died from his injuries, which police say were inflicted on him as part of a gang-related dispute.

LEMOORE – Three stabbing incidents. Two people killed, one of them a 16-year-old. All in a two-week span.

People who've spent their whole life in Lemoore say they can't remember anything like this.

Danielle Sanchez, who lives in the apartment complex near the intersection of Hanford-Armona Road and Cinnamon Drive, sees a daily reminder of the carnage.

Near her front door, there's a makeshift cluster of candles, flowers and balloons on the sidewalk near where stabbing victim and Lemoore resident Anthony Magana was found lying on the ground.

Magana, 26, died from knife injuries police say were inflicted on him as part of a gang-related confrontation.

That was on May 17.

On May 10, just a few blocks down Hanford-Armona Road at a different apartment complex, 16-year-old Wanya Jones was found unresponsive in a room. Jones was later pronounced dead at Adventist Medical Center.

In a third incident, on May 21 in a different part of town, police say several men got into a fight. At least one ended up in the hospital with stab wounds.

Sanchez said when she comes home from work now, she goes straight to her apartment.

She doesn't let her children play outdoors in the complex anymore.

"It's just crazy how everything is going down," Sanchez said. "To be honest with you, people are scared. A lot of people are saying they want to move out."

Police report that all the incidents are gang-related but that different gangs were involved in each altercation.

Police have arrested a suspect in connection with Magana's death. They're searching for a second suspect.

No suspects been arrested in connection with Jones' death. Authorities continue to investigate.

Like many others in Lemoore, Sanchez has been thinking about the stabbing deaths. She's wondering if gang activity is on the rise in town.

"I'm hearing a lot," said Lemoore Mayor Ray Madrigal. "Obviously, people are concerned."

"These are situations where the individuals were involved in activities that put them in a position where something like this might happen," he said, referring to gang activity. "This is not random."

Lemoore Police Cmdr. Maggie Ochoa said said the police department has deployed special teams to conduct probation and parole sweeps targeting known gang members. She said it's part of an effort to reassure the community and prevent anything further from happening.

"I don't think there's anybody in the community who isn't affected by this," said City Councilwoman Holly Blair.

The deaths have been especially hard-hitting for Myeisha Neal, a trustee for the Lemoore Union Elementary School District.

The homicides happened in her trustee district, and she lives close by.

"It makes you want to pull your kids closer and make sure they're getting to school safely and getting back home safely," Neal said, noting that Jones was a teenager. "The first [homicide] terrified us all. The second one, we were appalled that it happened within a week."

"If it's true that it's gang violence, I don't think it's fair to innocent children," she said.

Neal worries that gangs might be stepping up their activity in Lemoore, including possibly recruiting kids as young as the 6th grade.

"Our middle schoolers and and high schoolers are maybe being exposed to things we're not as aware of as we should be," she said. "I want parents to ... continue to keep that line of communication open with their children."

Neal said it might be time for the elementary school district to implement an anti-gang program for students.

"It's definitely something to look into," she said.

The reporter can be reached at snidever@hanfordsentinel.com or 583-2432. 

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