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San Diego police plan enforcement push after shootings in Mission Beach and Pacific Beach

The most recent shooting came Monday night, after police shut down a command post near Belmont Park.
The most recent shooting came Monday night, shortly after police shut down a command post near Belmont Park they had operated over the Labor Day weekend.
(Union-Tribune Community Press/Union-Tribune Community Press)

Police captain says seven bystanders have been shot since July and it is ‘a miracle that nobody has been killed’

San Diego police will be stepping up patrols by uniformed and undercover officers after a spate of shootings in Mission Beach and Pacific Beach injured seven innocent bystanders.

The most recent shooting came Monday night, shortly after police shut down a command post near Belmont Park they had operated over the Labor Day weekend.

Since early July, there have been four shootings in Mission Beach and Pacific Beach.

“It’s a miracle that nobody has been killed,” police Capt. Scott Wahl said Wednesday.

He said a strong police response, with increased patrols, improved lighting in parking lots and a more proactive approach, will help “change the environment” in the beach area.

The enforcement push was welcome news to Mission Beach Town Council president Matt Gardner, who said the beach area has seen a “quietly building” crime problem and heightened safety concerns after the back-to-back shootings.

“This is like a fresh drink of water when we were very thirsty,” Gardner said. “This is just a total answer to so many prayers.”

Wahl said the vast majority of visitors heading to Mission Beach are there to have a good time but some come looking for trouble — and they bring loaded weapons. The result is that some resort to gun violence over “ridiculous things,” Wahl said, such as fights over parking stalls or gang affiliations.

“They are not taking their coolers and their beach chairs,” the captain said. “They are hanging out, they are looking for trouble. All of these groups have been seeking a confrontation — that’s the common thing we are seeing.”

Since June 1, Wahl said officers have seized 35 loaded guns in the Belmont Park area — taking them from adults who are on parole or probation, as well juvenile offenders. “A few guns is a lot. This is off-the-charts alarming,” he said.

Recent shootings in the area include:

  • A shooting Monday night shortly after 9:30 p.m. that injured a 61-year-old woman who worked as a vendor and was hit by a stray bullet as she was packing up. Police said two assailants exchanged gunfire near Belmont Park after an argument. Stray bullets also hit a parked truck.
  • A week and a half earlier, four bystanders were shot after an argument between two groups escalated into a physical fight at Mission Boulevard and Ventura Place near the Giant Dipper roller coaster. Police said two men ran from the fight, then one of them turned and opened fire on the crowd.
  • In early July, a man arguing over parking on Grand Avenue west of Mission Boulevard fired off a round from an improvised pistol or “zip gun” into a crowded area. Police said bullet fragments struck two people — a 67-year-old woman and a 20-year-old man, who were later treated at the scene. A 60-year-old man was arrested and is being held on $250,000 bail on several charges including attempted murder and assault with a firearm, according to the sheriff’s jail log.

Wahl said the shooting Monday night occurred where the police command post — a van filled with communications gear that provides meeting space for officers — had been set up for four days. “It tells us that if we are not there, there are problems,” he said. “If we are there, there are no problems.”
With the enforcement push, officers will be more visible and contacting people who are “down here to create problems” — hopefully before a shooting can occur, he said.

“I’m being transparent about that because I want people to know that if you’re out there looking for trouble, there’s a very good chance there’s going to be a police officer watching you,” Wahl said. “And if you cross the line, you’re going to be talking to the cops.”


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