The mass killing that left six people dead and 12 wounded outside bars just a block from California’s Capitol last weekend was a gunfight involving at least five shooters from rival gangs, Sacramento police said Wednesday.
Police said they identified at least five gunmen but there may have been more. Only two suspects — both brothers wounded by gunfire — have been arrested in connection with the shooting and, so far, only face firearms charges.
Six people were killed in the bloodshed and 12 were wounded. The injured include two brothers who have been taken into custody in connection with the massacre.
No one has been yet been charged with homicide.
At least two people remain hospitalized with gunshot wounds. Authorities credited evidence and tips provided by the public with their break in the investigation.
One of the brothers in custody was freed from prison weeks before the shooting and last year was rejected for earlier release after prosecutors argued he “clearly has little regard for human life,” documents show.
Smiley Martin, 27, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and possession of a machine gun. Hours before Sunday’s attack, Martin posted a live Facebook video of himself brandishing a handgun, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press.
Police were trying to determine if a stolen handgun found at the crime scene was used in the massacre. It had been converted to a weapon capable of automatic gunfire.
The location of the Sacramento shooting – near the Capitol, in a bustling commercial area — was incidental to whatever fueled the fight.
“If rival gang members see each other it doesn’t matter if they’re in the Capitol of the United States of America,” Brown said. “If you see a rival gang member and you’re going to attack them, it doesn’t matter where they are.”
The large number of casualties was the result of high-capacity weapons in a crowded area, he said.
Berry Accius, founder of Voice of the Youth who leads gun intervention and prevention programs and offered his services to counsel families who lost loved ones in the shooting, criticized police for characterizing the crime as gang-related, which he said will lead some to “think Black people.”
He said people will see the photos of the Black women and men who were shot, assume they were in a gang and wonder why gang members are downtown.
“That’s the narrative we don’t need at this particular time,” Accius said. "This idea that we’re going to put blame to one demographic of folks and blame them for the violence that ensued.”
Authorities credited witnesses who contributed nearly 200 videos, photos and other tips with helping the investigation.
Detectives also were trying to determine whether the gun Martin brandished in the video was used, according to the official, who was briefed on the investigation but was not authorized to publicly discuss details and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Martin and his brother were among those wounded when gunfire erupted about a block from the state Capitol at about 2 a.m. Sunday as bars closed and patrons filled the streets. More than 100 shots were unleashed in rapid-fire succession as hundreds of people scrambled for safety. Investigators were trying to determine if a street fight outside a nightclub may have sparked the shooting.
The Sacramento County coroner identified the three women killed as Johntaya Alexander, 21; Melinda Davis, 57; and Yamile Martinez-Andrade, 21. The three men killed were Sergio Harris, 38; Joshua Hoye-Lucchesi, 32; and De’vazia Turner, 29.
Ten people were wounded in addition to the Martin brothers. Smiley Martin remained hospitalized and will be booked on the charges when his condition improves enough for him to be jailed, a police statement said.
His brother, Dandrae Martin, 26, was arrested Monday as a “related suspect” on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and being a convict carrying a loaded gun. He made a brief appearance on the gun possession charge Tuesday in Sacramento Superior Court.
Investigators believe both brothers had stolen guns and are trying to determine how they got them, the law enforcement official told the AP.
A 31-year-old man who was seen carrying a handgun immediately after the shooting was arrested Tuesday on a weapons charge. Police said they don’t believe his gun was used in the crime.
Smiley Martin has a criminal history dating to 2013. He was released on probation from state prison in February after serving about half of a 10-year sentence for punching a girlfriend, dragging her from her home by her hair and whipping her with a belt, prosecutors have said.
Martin might have been released sooner, but a Parole Board rejected his bid for early release in May after prosecutors said the 2017 felony assault along with convictions for possessing an assault weapon and thefts posed “a significant, unreasonable risk of safety to the community.”
Martin “clearly has little regard for human life and the law,” and has displayed a pattern of criminal behavior from the time he was 18, a Sacramento County deputy district attorney wrote in a letter last year to the Board of Parole Hearings.
It wasn’t clear if Smiley Martin had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
Dandrae Martin, who was held without bail, was freed from an Arizona prison in 2020 after serving just over 18 months for violating probation in separate cases involving marijuana possession and aggravated assault.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg told reporters Wednesday he had “serious questions” about why the brothers “were out on the streets.”
“And those questions need to be answered and they will be answered over the days ahead,” Steinberg said.
Defense lawyer Linda Parisi said an effort to seek Dandrae Martin’s release on bail will depend on whether prosecutors bring stiffer charges.
“If it turns out that the evidence demonstrates that this was mere presence at a scene that certainly argues more for a release,” Parisi said. “If it shows some more aggressive conduct then it would argue against it. But we don’t know that yet.”
Balsamo reported from Washington, D.C. Associated Press writers Stefanie Dazio, Brian Melley and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles, Don Thompson in Sacramento, Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix and News Researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York City contributed to this story.