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Community unites in wake of Saturday shooting that wounded 6 people

Dozens of residents in a Las Vegas housing project with a history of violence were “doing the wobble” and dancing to DJ Thump’s songs Tuesday evening at a party meant to “take back the community” after a weekend shooting left six people wounded, two men critically.

“It’s a miracle that nobody died — that everybody survived. It’s a miracle called ‘UMC Trauma.’ We owe it to the surgeons there,” said Las Vegas police Capt. Larry Burns of the early Saturday morning shooting at Sherman Gardens Annex, near Owens Avenue and H Street. “These suspects were cowards seeking some sort of vengeance that night — and they shot innocent people who were just enjoying themselves in their front yard, drinking adult beverages.”

Metropolitan Police Department detectives are seeking three male suspects in their early to mid-20s. They fled in two cars: a white two-door Mercury Cougar and a tan four-door Dodge Neon, witnesses said.

The men drove to a unit in the 1700 block of Curran Way at 12:15 a.m., jumped out of the cars and unleashed a barrage of bullets on one woman and four men, police said. A 62-year-old homeless man who was crossing a street in the northwest part of the complex also was shot as the suspects raced away.

Police did not release the names of the shooting victims.

The target of the assault is believed to be a 36-year-old man in critical condition at UMC, Burns said. He was shot several times — once in the chest, once in the upper torso and once in the leg, Burns said.

The homeless man, known around the neighborhood as Obie and always seen with a guitar strapped to his back, was shot in a major artery in his leg and lost a lot of blood. He remains hospitalized at University Medical Center, Burns said.

The other four victims — one woman and three men — were treated and released from UMC for gunshot wounds to the legs and lower extremities, Burns said. Their ages range from late 20s to late 30s.

Police are still investigating the motive for the shooting.

Burns, who is in charge of the Police Department’s Bolden Area Command, which patrols the housing project area, doesn’t yet know whether the shooting was gang-related.

“We just don’t know,” Burns said. “That’s what we’re trying to figure out.”

What police do know is that the 36-year-old male victim believed to be the target was visiting friends at the complex.

Exactly what happened and what relationships exist between the victims and the suspects isn’t clear yet, said Dora LaGrande, a board member for the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority, which has made it a priority to clean up Sherman Gardens the past 30 months.

Known as “The Jets,” the complex — one of 22 housing projects operated by the housing authority — was once the site of frequent gang violence.

It used to average three homicides a year, and that is not counting all the gunshot injuries not considered life-threatening, such as what occurred early Saturday, said Lt. Dennis Flynn, who attended the community event.

The pattern was disturbing, so 2½ years ago, religious leaders, the housing authority and Las Vegas police decided to get involved, full throttle.

With an influx of state and federal funds, the complex underwent a series of improvements, including new paint jobs to all 160 units.

Those large numbers indicating the address of a particular unit, purposely made large so responding cops would know where to respond? They were all replaced with normal-size addresses.

As for the entire complex itself, it has been at the forefront of community policing, with officers walking their beat and getting to know residents.

Violent crime at Sherman Gardens fell by 44 percent between 2010 and 2011, according to police. The number of gun-related reports dropped by nearly 90 percent. Robberies decreased by
80 percent.

Saturday’s shooting was an “affront,” Burns said, to the housing authority, to police and to many of the neighborhood residents. It brought back bad memories of a bad past. It was the first time in a long time that such violence has visited the complex.

“We’re going to put this all behind us,” said Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church pastor Willie R. Cherry, who led the community in prayer before the music and dancing began.

“We’re going to move forward, not backward.”

Contact reporter Tom Ragan at tragan@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5512.

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