FRESNO – Groups of graffiti vandals around Fresno have become more dangerous, as evidenced by a tagging-related shooting earlier this week.
On Tuesday night, 21-year-old Jairo Mendez was shot by someone in a passing vehicle on the 4800 block of East Washington Avenue near Chestnut Avenue, police said. Mendez was walking with a 15-year-old boy, who was also shot at but took cover behind a vehicle and was not hit.
Mendez was taken to Community Regional Center where he later died.
Police believe that Mendez and the occupants of the car were in rival tagging crews. Police Chief Jerry Dyer said that this year alone, there have been 40 tagging-related shootings in Fresno. Of those, 24 have been drive-by shootings.
Dyer said that the tagging crews are becoming more violent as they fight over their territories.
“These are no longer taggers, they are acting as gang members,” Dyer said.
The Fresno Police Department is going to focus more on the increase in violence that involves taggers.
“We are addressing it aggressively with our district crime suppression team, as well as members of our street violence section, and we are in the process of validating many of these groups and individuals as gang members,” Dyer said.
He said that police can’t validate all taggers as gang members because they have to abide by certain state-mandated criteria in order to do so.
Police have not yet arrested anyone in Tuesday night’s shooting, but said they have some good leads.