Gang War Wave Hits Surf Community

Fun Rivalry Among Surfers Becomes Deadly

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Who knows how long an injured raven dangled before someone noticed him at this very popular area of Santa Cruz.

    Before last Friday's homicide in Santa Cruz, professional surfer Darryl "Flea" Virostko used to associate himself as a westsider by covering his board with Westside symbols.

    But after Carl Reimer, 19, was fatally shot, those symbols on Virostko's boards are covered up.

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    Reimer was shot and killed near a storage shed at 90 Grandview Street after a day of surfing and hanging out with friends. Police said they think the shooting was a gang hit, even though Reimer wasn't a gang member.

    Since the shooting, police have put out extra patrols and are trying to use a different tactic to protect the community from gang violence.

    Decades ago, surfers would "claim turf" as a way to show pride in the area where they grew up.

    "We were proud of where we were from, and the waves we could get on the westside," Virostko. "The eastside surfers would come surf with us and we'd push back. It was kind of a heckling rivalry."

    Santa Cruz police said that the sense of community pride between surfers is turning deadly because gang members interpret the surfers rivalry as a challenge.

    "Several years ago, that was OK," said Bernie Escalante, of the Santa Cruz Police Department."Now days, that's going to be a challenge, and the problem is leading to deadly confrontation."

    Police will not say what exactly lead to the shooting of Reimer, only that he was proud of the westside community where he lived.

    "We really want the parents to try and install that in their children. If somebody confronts you and they challenge you in that way, go in a different direction," said Rick Martinez, of the Santa Cruz Police Department."You're not involved in that lifestyle and that's what we're saying."

    Virostko agrees with police that what started as a friendly challenge in the surf community off the Santa Cruz coast has escalated into something that is out of control.

    "I don't even know where this is coming from. It's not part of the surf scene, you know," Virostko said.

    Meanwhile, the community group Take Back Santa Cruz has planned a positive loitering community event on Friday at 7 p.m. at Grandview Park, which is next door to where Reimer was fatally shot.

     

    This article originally appeared on KSBW.com.