For the second time in three days, gunfire erupted on a notorious stretch of West First Avenue.
Five people were injured early Sunday in a drive-by shooting in front of the Coach House Restaurant.
One man was shot and wounded early Friday near the same spot.
Violence is no stranger to the corner of First and Madison, which for years has been a hangout for drug dealers and prostitutes. Police cars are a corner fixture during many hours.
But some regulars at the 24-hour Coach House restaurant Sunday afternoon said they were scared. They said violence is increasing, and they want it stopped.
Nearby residents said they are considering moving.
“I’m thinking about it, that’s for sure,” said Blanche Pope, 59. “Wouldn’t you?” Some downtown apartment dwellers don’t leave their homes at night. Downtown workers contemplate buying guns for protection.
“I work in the war zone,” said Coach House cook Frank Anderson, 29. “These kids are out here running around with guns, and I come here to work. I don’t get paid enough.”
“You should get combat pay,” a customer added.
There’s no evidence connecting the two shootings, which left three men in area hospitals Sunday night.
About 3 a.m. Sunday, shots were sprayed in several directions from a light-colored car that drove east on First and turned the corner south onto Madison. A passenger yelled at the crowd of people, leaned out the window and fired, police said.
One man was shot in the upper thigh, another was hit in the knee. One woman was hit in the leg, and another woman was struck in the buttocks.
Another bullet grazed a woman’s leg. Still another struck a Spokesman-Review delivery truck parked just north of the restaurant. The driver wasn’t injured.
“It was indiscriminate,” police spokesman Dick Cottam said of the shooting.
A 17-year-old youth sat in the same Coach House booth Sunday afternoon that he sat in early Sunday. About 3 a.m., he had walked in the front door to talk to some girls. He lit a cigarette and sat down in the booth near a window. Then he heard the shots.
“All we heard was like about 15 rounds,” the teen said, as he flicked through a roll of $20 and $100 bills.
Both he and a 19-year-old admitted drug dealer said the shooting early Sunday was retaliation for an earlier fist fight in front of the restaurant.
“It makes me feel unsafe,” said the 17-year-old, who didn’t want his name used. He said that wouldn’t stop him from coming to the corner. “I don’t really care.”
The three female victims were treated and released.
The two men, who were not identified, were being treated in an area hospital Sunday night. A 23-year-old was listed in satisfactory condition after being shot in the right knee. A 19-year-old was listed in serious but stable condition after being shot in the upper thigh.
Police spotted a car matching the description of the shooter’s car on Geiger Boulevard. They stopped it Hayford and Balmer.
Police arrested Robert Guerra Esparza, 31, who gave his address as 1118 W. Knox, and Travis Charles Lanphier, 25, who gave his address as 1611 N. Adams. A handgun was recovered from one of the men.
Both were being held in jail Sunday night on five counts of first-degree assault.
On Friday, a 22-year-old man was found just after 3 a.m., lying on the sidewalk after being shot several times. No one has been arrested in that shooting. He was expected to be released from the hospital soon.
Police said the Friday morning shooting was gang-related. All those involved are gang members who’ve moved recently from Los Angeles, police said.
The shooting Sunday could be related to gangs, police said.
“I don’t come out late at night, not anymore,” said David Sliva, 31, who’s lived in a downtown apartment for three months. “I been thinking about moving. There’s got to be a better neighborhood.”
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