SANTA CRUZ -- Reeling from a homicide, the shooting of a UC Santa Cruz student, and an armed takeover and robbery at a natural foods store in the past week, Santa Cruz police and city leaders tried to give residents some solace and address violent crime Thursday.
"The whole thing's been very jarring," said Santa Cruz Mayor Hilary Bryant. "Any one of these incidents independently would have been awful. We're just all at the point where enough is enough."
Food Bin manager Dario Dickinson said Wednesday's brazen robbery "isn't going to stop us from running our business."
He commended the staff for the way they handled it and said "We've had an incredible outpouring of support from the community."
Since the slaying of 32-year-old Pauly Silva outside a Locust Street bar Saturday night, police and Santa Cruz County Gang Task Force officers have rousted gang members on probation, rattling their chains in an attempt to prevent a potential retaliatory attack.
While police say the victim was not in a gang, they believe the shooter was a gang member. None of the three yet to be identified men apprehended that night have been arrested in Silva's murder but are being held on other charges.
"We want to let people know that we're out there, and we don't want anything further," said Gang Task Force Cmdr. Mario Sulay said.
This week task force members let gangsters know they were on their trail. During probation searches, they rifled through their homes in search of guns, text messages and cellphone calls to check for recent gang communications, police said.
"We're putting a lot of suppression out there so people decide not to go out cruising and do things that they shouldn't be doing," Sulay said.
Silva's 28-year-old widow and mother of their 10-month-old girl, Maeva Silva, said Thursday that she had faith in police to arrest the men responsible for Pauly's death. His family and friends "just want justice, they don't want violence," she said.
She described Pauly as "larger than life" and a person who cared for friends and strangers. More than 1,500 people supported a Facebook page in his honor, she added.
"It's so heart wrenching to have so many people come out and want to help you," she said.
A public memorial service is planned for 9 a.m. Saturday at Pacific Gardens Chapel, 1050 Cayuga St. in Santa Cruz. A PayPal account to benefit Silva's family and 10-month-old and 12-year-old daughters is at www.facebook.com/NeverForgetPaulySilva.
Just two nights after the city's first murder of the year, a UCSC student was shot in the head. Two days after that, two men stormed the Food Bin on Mission Street, ordered everyone to the ground and robbed the store and four customers.
Authorities continued to investigate whether that bold attack was gang motivated and whether it was linked to the robbery and attempted murder of a UCSC student at a bus stop on Monday. In both attacks, the similarities were the bandannas they wore and the long-barreled gun.
The Food Bin robbery happened about 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, when a man with a knife and a man with a shotgun entered the busy store at 1130 Mission St., said Santa Cruz Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark.
A woman who looked up at the suspects was kicked in the face.
"I can't imagine going through that," Clark said.
The suspects appeared comfortable and seasoned.
"The novice ones get in and get out as quickly as they can," Clark said.
Police have not described a getaway car and have made no arrests.
The man with a knife appeared thin, white and in his early 20s and about 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall.
The second man with a long-barreled gun appeared to be a heavy-set Latino in his early 20s and about 5 feet 10 inches tall.
Police said the store did not have surveillance cameras or a panic button to alert an alarm company, as some grocery stores have.
BUS STOP SHOOTING
Santa Cruz police hope DNA evidence from the UCSC student's recovered backpack will uncover more leads.
Tuesday night, a school maintenance worker found the backpack in a trash bin near Benito Avenue and Water Street in Santa Cruz, Clark said.
A surveillance camera near the trash bin showed a white or silver Chevrolet HHR, a small SUV, that was near the bin when the backpack was dumped. Police said that was the getaway car in the shooting, not a Chrysler PT Cruiser as originally reported.
The suspect is described as a light-skinned man who appeared about 5 feet 7 inches tall with a medium build. A composite sketch of the man was released Tuesday night.
The female student is recovering at home after being shot in the head while waiting at a bus stop on Natural Bridges Drive about 7:30 p.m. Monday.
Clark said more officers patrolled remote areas like quiet bus stops in recent days.
"We're not just sitting back on our heels waiting for the next one to happen," he said.
Santa Cruz police ask anyone with information to call investigations at 831-420-5820, the anonymous tip line at 831-420-5995 or leave a tip at www.santacruzpolice.com or by the mobile application at http://m.santacruzpolice.com.
Sentinel staff reporter Jessica M. Pasko contributed to this report. Follow Sentinel reporter Stephen Baxter on Twitter at Twitter.com/sbaxter_sc
A public memorial service for Pauly Silva is planned for 9 a.m. Saturday at Pacific Gardens Chapel, 1050 Cayuga St. in Santa Cruz. A PayPal account to benefit Silva's family is online at www.facebook.com/NeverForgetPaulySilva.