Mike Jackson, the Medford Police Department’s school resource officer at South Medford High School, patrols the South campus at lunch Tuesday. School officials tightened security around the school after shots were fired at a carload of girls near the school late Monday.

Drive-by shooting boosts fears

Medford police and school officials ratcheted up security around high school campuses Tuesday after a suspected gang-related, drive-by shooting at about 11 p.m. Monday near South Medford High School.

A car carrying four teenage girls was headed west on Monroe Street near J Street when a tan or gold sedan, possibly a Chevy Capri, came up behind their car, then passed them, Medford police Lt. Tim Doney said. Someone leaned out of the passing car and fired several rounds with a small-caliber rifle.

Seven bullets hit the car and windshield. No one inside was hit.

"They are pretty fortunate no one was hit," Doney said. "This could just as easily be a death investigation."

The girls drove home to a house several blocks away and a silver car, possibly a Honda Accord, associated with the shooting car followed them home, Doney said.

The girls called police and the two suspect vehicles were gone from the area when officers arrived. However, investigators have some promising leads in the case, which they believe is related to other gang activity in recent months, including fights, stabbings and incidents of brandishing weapons, Doney said.

"The gang situation is something we've been watching carefully," said Mike Jackson, school resource officer at South Medford, who watched shifting knots of students chat on the sidewalk outside the school at lunchtime Tuesday.

"Because of the ages of the people involved and the proximity, we are on high alert," Jackson said.

He and Ernie Whiteman, the school resource officer at North Medford, asked for additional patrols around the schools Tuesday. They also contacted school resource officers from other departments at Eagle Point, Phoenix and Crater high schools to share information.

Marked patrol cars and even a Jackson County Sheriff's Department truck cruised by South Medford High around the noon hour. The principal and vice principals joined campus monitors pacing the perimeter of the school property. The campus security team kept watch on the surrounding neighborhood, and kept kids moving along while they were on lunch break and could leave campus, said Doug Jantzi, the district's director of secondary education.

"We took some precautions around campus with this escalated gang-rivalry incident," he said.

He and South Principal Kevin Campbell stressed that the late-night shooting on a school holiday wasn't a school-related incident; it had just happened in the same neighborhood. Several of the girls in the car attend Medford schools, Jantzi said.

"Even things that happen at night or on weekends, we are concerned about the residual effect," he said.

Medford detectives and the department's gang and street drugs unit, along with sheriff's department detectives, spent Tuesday questioning suspected gang members and other witnesses, hoping to unravel the growing tentacles of gang activity in the Rogue Valley.

Medford police have said that Norteños and Sureños, two Hispanic gangs with roots in the California prison system, are active here. Most local associates of the gangs don't know the groups' violent history or roots of their rivalry, Jackson said.

"Gangs tend to think they are always retaliating over some perceived incident," Jackson said. He said gang associates might not even know what the original slight or clash was or who was involved, but are willing to strike back.

Three stabbings reported over three weeks in December and early January targeted Sureños, he said. The stabbings, a street fight and clashes at parties at that time raised police concerns about escalating gang violence among teens and young adults.

Doney said police were called to a party involving suspected gang members on Pinecroft Avenue, on the northeast edge of Medford, Saturday night. A 16-year-old boy affiliated with the Sureños had been shot in the neck in an apparent suicide attempt, and other partygoers hid the shotgun believing it was an illegal weapon. Detectives spent hours searching for the weapon as they tried to piece together what happened, Doney said. He said the boy is in critical condition at a local hospital and likely will be paralyzed by his injuries.

Because gang members were at the party, police are concerned things that happened there could spark other violence.

"More repercussions could come about," Doney said.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail

Share This Story