SAN JOSE -- Ten suspects were arrested in the past week in connection with two separate gang-related killings of young men that occurred about a month apart in the same East San Jose neighborhood, police said.
With the arrests, homicide detectives appear to have solved the city's 15th and 19th homicides of 2012. The overall homicide total reached 37 early Friday with a slaying in North San Jose. The city is on pace to eclipse a 15-year high in killings recorded in 2011, with 21/2 months left in the year.
The first set of arrests was made Oct. 3 in the May 16 death of 18-year-old Ricky Jacques, who was found in the 1000 block of Walnut Woods Drive off Lucretia Avenue with a fatal gunshot wound. A 21-year-old man was beaten in the same attack but survived.
An investigation led police to arrest San Jose residents Adrian Alaniz, 24; Juan Carlos Castillo, 18; Erik Hernandez, 18; Thomas Leyva, 24; Eduardo Magana, 19; Juan Pineda, 20; Ramon Ramirez, 20; and a minor whose identity was not released because he is a juvenile.
Then on Oct. 8, police arrested San Jose residents Jose Gutierrez, 19, and 24-year-old Luis Ramos in connection with the June 12 killing of 17-year-old Leonel Garcia Farias on Owlsey Avenue, about a block from the site of the May homicide.
Officer Albert Morales, a police spokesman, did not release additional details about the investigations that led to the arrests but reiterated that they were fueled by gang motivations. Thirteen of the city's homicides this year have been declared gang-related.
Morales credited tireless work by homicide investigators for solving the cases months after the deaths occurred, along with cooperation with other department divisions such as the Mobile Emergency Response Group and Equipment (MERGE) unit and the Covert Response Unit.
He also lauded residents for coming forward with increasing frequency to offer tips and help detectives identify suspects.
"People are actually coming forward and helping solve some of these cases," Morales said. "They're getting tired of it, too. They're tired of being held captive in their own neighborhoods. These are things we need for the public, and we're getting results."
Last year, a concerted police and community effort helped the city avoid any gang killings during the summer, which is a typical period for surges in violence. There was no repeat in 2012: Since Farias' death, the city has recorded 18 homicides, with at least half a dozen of them considered to have gang elements.
Included in that second-half homicide tally was a streak of eight killings in 13 days in mid-August, one of the bloodiest stretches in the city's history.
"This is the most violent that I've seen it," said Morales, a 15-year veteran. "Then you factor in the young age of the offenders, and victims. You wonder where this is stemming from, but there are a lot of factors that go into why these crimes that are so violent are happening."
Morales theorized that the numbers could be worse if not for advances in trauma medicine, crediting the work of medical staff at Regional Medical Center of San Jose and Valley Medical Center for increasing the rate people are surviving violent attacks in the city, an assessment shared by some of the city's gang-violence experts.
The rising crime rate in the city, particularly with burglaries and other "quality of life" crimes, has spurred constant sparring in City Hall among the City Council, police union, residents and the Police Department over the effects of budget cuts and pension reform efforts that have either led to layoffs or officers leaving for higher pay elsewhere.
Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.