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Jeanfromfillmore 03-06-2010 04:40 PM

Gang members target random victims
Gang members target random victims in recent violence, police say
Victims include 75-year-old who died after robbery
Known gang members have targeted random victims, including an elderly woman who died Wednesday after she was hit in the face, in a burst of recent violence, according to court records and police.
Police are investigating the death of 75-year-old Jennie McClusky as a homicide but said they are awaiting autopsy results before possibly bringing more charges against two teens accused of robbing her.
McClusky, whose purse was snatched outside a South Austin Taco Bell, fell face down during the Jan. 25 attack and was severely injured, court records said.
Friends described her as frail, perhaps not weighing more than 90 pounds.
"She was a sweet lady," said friend and neighbor Brett Morris. "This is as cowardly as you can get."
McClusky's death followed a series of weekend drive-by shootings. A man survived being shot in the neck during one of the drive-by attacks, and has since been released from the hospital, authorities said.
Police said the recent crimes have stirred particular concern: Unlike many crimes, in which members attack rival groups, recent victims were chosen for no apparent reason.
"It was just complete random violence," Cmdr. Chris Noble said Thursday. "We can't find anything at all to indicate this was targeted."
Investigators said they do not think the incidents are related.
On Thursday night, top officials from the Austin Police Department, the Austin school district and the Travis County district attorney's office members of the Joint Steering Committee on Gang Activity met to discuss issues that contribute to gang activity, including truancy.
Authorities have charged an eighth-grade student and a 17-year-old with aggravated robbery for taking McClusky's purse.
The older teen, Jonathan Anthony Kelly-Contreras, also is charged with soliciting membership to a criminal street gang. Records show he has been released from the Travis County Jail on a personal recognizance bond. His attorney, Amber Vasquez Bode, could not be reached for comment.
According to an arrest affidavit, McClusky was leaving a Taco Bell on West William Cannon Drive at 4:30 p.m. when a teen grabbed her purse, which was draped over her left shoulder. She resisted, and the teen then elbowed her in the face, the affidavit said.
"The suspect then knocked the victim down face-first into the pavement," the affidavit said.
One of the teens then grabbed her purse and threw it to the other, investigators said.
According to an affidavit, witnesses told police that they had overheard the two talking before the robbery.
Kelly-Contreras told the other teen, "If you want to be in the Piru Bloods, you got to do it. ... I'm your (original gangster) you gotta do it," the affidavit said.
Police said they have documented 25 Austin members of the Piru Blood gang, a subset of the Bloods, a notorious street gang founded in Los Angeles.
Police said on Saturday they responded to at least two gang-related drive-by shootings.
Javier Enrique Ronces, 17, has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and police said they are trying to find other possible suspects.
Ronces is a documented member of the PuroBarrioUnidas gang and had been in jail after shooting at several people last year, according to an arrest affidavit. No other details were available on those incidents Thursday.
According to court records, police got calls Saturday about two drive-by shootings in Southeast Austin at an apartment complex at 2401 Lakeshore Blvd. and a home in the 800 block of Vargas Drive. No one was injured in the first incident, but a man was shot in the neck in the Vargas Drive shooting.
Noble said that several men in a car may have been "mean-mugging," a gang term for trying to catch the notice of a victim, then shooting at them.
"They were out having what to them was fun," Noble said.
Along McClusky's street in South Austin on Thursday, neighbors expressed sadness at her death.
Morris said his 12-year old daughter often carried McClusky's newspaper to her door. In turn, McClusky gave his daughter Christmas gifts, he said.
In recent years, McClusky, whose husband of 53 years died in March 2006, volunteered to collect signatures to limit parking along the residential streets near Bowie High School.
She offered to accompany neighbor Exiquio Salinas, 62, on her door-to-door quest.
"Nobody turned her down," Salinas said.

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