Sacramento County already hit with ten homicides during the holiday season

Photograph by Andrea Ferrario

Sacramento police and sheriff’s detectives have tackled ten homicide investigations since the start of November, with four of those murders happening in front of well-known taverns or nightclubs. From the Downtown Commons to the city’s oldest dive bar, there have been some unsettling moments in the early holiday season.

November’s first case started with a fire in the night. Three days into the month, deputies from the Sacramento Sheriff’s night patrol were cruising the south county when they spotted a house ablaze. The fire had broken out at an address on Del Norte Boulevard not far from Fruitridge Park.  The deputies pulled up as Fire personnel made their way into the smoking structure, eventually hauling out a male victim who was clinging to life. The man was pronounced dead at the scene.  While trying to save him, firefighters discovered a gunshot wound to his torso. Sheriff’s officials said there’s currently a reward for tips that might lead to an arrest in the case through Sacramento Valley Crime Stoppers (916-443-4357). 

A few days later, Sacramento police detectives got an arrest in a homicide that occurred earlier in the fall. That case involved a 66-year-old man named Jimmy Lee McDowell getting assaulted on Franklin Boulevard near the Sutterville Road intersection. Police arrived to find McDowell “going in and out of consciousness” with numerous injuries to his face. He was rushed to the hospital where he died weeks later. By that time, the homicide unit had identified a suspect in McDowell’s attack, 28-year-old Sacramento resident Gerquan Clark. They obtained a warrant for Clark within 24 hours of McDowell passing away. He’s currently in the Downtown jail facing murder charges.

By November 7, the city’s homicide unit was working a new case. It started around 1 p.m. when police forced their way into a house on River Run Circle in South Natomas. Inside, officers found a man and a woman who’d both been shot. Neither survived. Detectives located a gun near their bodies. Police officials believe this incident – a potential murder-suicide – doesn’t involve a threat to the public.

The following evening, patrol officers in the north city responded to a “shots fired” call in the area of Del Paso Boulevard and El Camino Avenue. They pulled up to find two men badly bleeding. Both were taken to the hospital, where one later died. Within 24 hours homicide detectives had identified a 32-year-old Sacramento man named Diamond Moore as their suspected shooter. A warrant was issued but Moore was in the wind. On Nov. 27, police in Reno, Nevada, encountered him and managed to take the fugitive into custody.

On November 14, fans of the popular Christian singer Lauren Daigle were queuing up at Golden 1 Center when a shocking crime unfolded at The Downtown Commons. Sacramento Police say that, around 4:45 p.m., a man who’d been living on the streets named Laronn Wilson II was suddenly stabbed-to-death near the Tahoe Blue Ridge Bar. Arriving officers attempted a medical intervention, but Wilson had lost too much blood. He ultimately died at the hospital. Wilson was 22-years-old. After conducting an investigation, police detectives arrested another man who’d been living outdoors named Malik Wilson. The alleged stabber was 23. Authorities said that these young men, both named Wilson, knew each other prior to the deadly encounter.

Two days later, Sacramento police rushed out to a shooting in front of a liquor store off Fruitridge Road. The emergency call was logged at 7:10 p.m. Officers arrived to find two men who’d been gunned down near the busy thoroughfare. Both were rushed to the hospital, where one of them died four days later. The case is still under investigation.

The following Thursday, the Sacramento Sheriff’s ‘Shotspotter’ technology detected 12 gunshots being fired in the area of Hillsdale Boulevard in North Highlands. Emergency dispatchers were soon getting calls advising that a man was staggering around with a bullet wound in his leg. When deputies arrived in the vicinity, they discovered a man on the ground who’d been shot through the chest. He did not survive. Sheriff’s investigators were soon made aware that another man had brought himself to the nearest emergency room to get a leg treated for a bullet hole. Sheriff’s Sergeant Amar Gandhi later told reporters that the two men had been in a gunfight with each other, and that homicide detectives were forwarding everything they knew about the incident to the District Attorney’s Office.

In a matter of days, homicide investigators were conducting a double-murder probe at Sacto By Night Lounge, a popular club near Florin Road and State Route 99. The incident happened around 1:45 a.m. as the business was closing up. According to Sheriff’s officials, “a group of gang members were at the nightclub and were initially refusing to leave.” When the group went out into the parking lot, an altercation happened, and at least one of the gang members opened fire. The club’s owner, 52-year-old Ben Do, was killed, along with a 23-year-old man named Ryu Kai Her. The mother of Her, Mee Yang, soon told journalists that her son was not a gang member, but rather the victim of tragic timing: He was reportedly showing up to Sacto By Night to meet his cousins when the bullets started flying. The California Highway Patrol detained a group of men who were fleeing the scene in a vehicle. The names and charges of those involved in the incident haven’t been released yet.

On December 7, Sacramento police sped out to the Greenhaven neighborhood, pulling up to The Trap, a place widely considered the oldest dive bar in the city. There had been a call for shots fired. Arriving officers were told that a 21-year-old man named Benjamin Sapp was being driven to the hospital with a gunshot wound. Another patron was trying to save him by getting him help as quickly as possible. The Trap’s owner, Mariah Lukenbill, later told reporters that the incident involved four men in a car and some kind of confrontation. Lukenbill said she took cover after seeing a gun flashed. Sapp later died at the hospital. No arrests have been made yet.

In less than 24 hours, sheriff’s deputies were heading out to a shooting at an apartment complex not far from the intersection of Florin Road and Stockton Boulevard. They soon discovered 35-year-old Christopher Saunders in front of one of the units with a gunshot wound to his chest. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Sheriff’s homicide detectives conducted an investigation, eventually determining that Saunders had come to the complex to confront his estranged wife. After banging on the door of where she was, Saunders allegedly forced his way into the unit – and then went after his wife. An altercation reportedly broke out in the apartment, one in which two other adults and a teen living there were pulled into. At some point, one of the residents – who legally owned a gun, – shot and killed Saunders. Sheriff’s officials said the District Attorney’s Office is reviewing the circumstances.

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