Two men were shot and wounded Friday morning at Harborside Park in Chula Vista, prompting a lockdown at a nearby elementary school, two days after the City Council voted to close the park at the end of this month to address homelessness and alleged criminal issues.
Both victims were believed to be homeless men who lived at the park on Oxford Street, Chula Vista police spokesperson Caitlin Clark wrote in a news release. The suspects in the attack were believed to be teens who were not homeless and did not live at the encampment.
“There is no evidence that the victims were targeted because they were homeless,” Clark wrote in the news release. “A motive for the crime remains unknown at this time.”
The first shooting was reported just before 6:45 a.m., with the 911 caller telling a police dispatcher that four to six juvenile suspects were surrounding a man who’d been shot in a leg, according to the news release. The caller said the assailants then ran toward a nearby trolley station on Palomar Street.
Six minutes later, a second 911 caller reported a second victim was in front of a business on Palomar Street “suffering from multiple gunshot and stab wounds,” Clark wrote in the news release. Paramedics took both victims, ages 26 and 33, to a hospital for treatment of injuries that were not expected to be life-threatening.
Police and school officials placed Harborside Elementary School, which shares a boundary with the park, on lockdown until police officers secured the area and confirmed the suspects had left the scene, Clark wrote.
San Diego police later arrested three people at a downtown San Diego trolley station who were thought to be involved in the shooting, according to Clark. Their names and ages were not released, and Chula Vista police believe additional suspects are still at large.
Anyone with information about Friday morning’s violence or the outstanding suspects was asked to call San Diego County Crime Stoppers’ anonymous tip line at (888) 580-8477
The city is closing Harborside Park next week with the expectation it will remain closed at least three months, according to the council’s vote on Wednesday.
Located on Oxford Street between Broadway and Industrial Boulevard, the park is bordered by a county family resource center and a Walmart, as well as the trolley station and school. The city bought the 5-acre property in 2003 for $2.3 million after the community asked city leaders to create more green space on the land instead of allowing a high-density apartment building.
Over the years, the park had become a popular encampment location for homeless individuals. In 2015, the city recognized two police officers for helping to clean up the park and make it safer for the community.
As of earlier this week, about 50 to 100 people were living at the park, either in tents or shaded areas, and city crews said they collect on a weekly basis up to 12,000 pounds of trash, including empty alcohol bottles, needles, knives and feces.
“The reality is that it’s no longer a park,” Eduardo Reyes, Chula Vista Elementary School District superintendent, told the council Wednesday. The district, he added, has hired two security guards to patrol the campus perimeters.