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K Street Shootout: Breaking down Sacramento's gang problem

Sacramento police estimate there are about 3,000 gang members in the city. It could be a lot higher. A defense attorney and former police officer weigh in.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sunday's downtown Sacramento shooting that left six people dead and 12 wounded was gang-related with at least five different shooters, Sacramento Police confirmed Wednesday.

A video from Sacramento Gang Archives on YouTube, a seemingly anonymous insider, posted a video the day of the shooting explaining what happened that night as well as digging into the history behind the shooting.

"It's deeper than you think," the YouTuber starts off their over nine-minute explainer saying.

Law enforcement sources ABC10 spoke with said 90% of the video's contents appear to be true - they're still working to confirm the rest.

The anonymous YouTuber says the shooting happened after rival groups coincidentally went to the London nightclub in downtown Sacramento on the same night.

Videos, photos and posts on social media are being used by Sacramento police, the public and us here at ABC10 to break down exactly what happened.

Sacramento police said they received over 200 tips and footage from the public to help them piece together their investigation.

RELATED: Evidence shows at least 5 shooters involved in gang gunfight at center of K Street shooting, police say

"I'd hate to confront that in court, I think he's cooked himself," James Hernandez told ABC10 when we showed him video posted to social media hours before the shooting occurred.

Hernandez is a 30-year law enforcement veteran that worked in the gang unit turned Sacramento State professor. He has been involved in as many as 600 gang-related cases and served as an expert in numerous trials. 

He told ABC10 that in 1978 he saw Sacramento gangs start to evolve.

"I saw them emerge as kind of neighborhood groups and then being tied into a lot of major crime groups," said Hernandez. "Latin gangs were tied into the Mexican Mafia and Nuestra Familia. African American gangs tied into the Crips and the Bloods."

Over the years, he's seen gangs evolve in different Sacramento neighborhoods.

"You look at Oak Park, it used to be the Funk Lords. Then all the sudden it became the Oak Park Bloods," said Hernandez. "Then Oak Park started fighting Meadowview."

It's a few of the many transformations he's witnessed. But this shooting is unlike anything he's seen before.

"To spray a crowd like that, we're dealing with something really different. Just a different mindset - because usually the gang members will just be after each other... but to do that level of shooting in a public place... wow," said Hernandez.

Hernandez as well as criminal defense attorney Mark Reichel, who has represented gang members hundreds of times, said in many gang-related cases the suspects often give themselves away by posting on social media.

And when a crime is affiliated with a gang, it often changes the outcome in the courtroom.

"In any case in California there are enhancements for your sentences," said Reichel. "In fact, there are actual elements of crimes and new crimes for gang activity."

RELATED: Downtown Sacramento Shooting | Remembering the victims

How police determine if someone is a gang member is through a validation process, both Reichel and Hernandez said. 

According to the Sacramento Police Department, as of 2020, there are around 3,000 validated gang members in Sacramento. 

But Reichel guesses it's far more.

"[Law enforcement] goes through a validation process as a checklist," said Reichel.

He said in the 1990's, law enforcement gang task forces had binders full of photos, information and notes on these suspects and/or confirmed members. 

But it isn't as simple as wearing a certain colored bandana. Multiple pieces of evidence linking someone to a specific group contribute -- such as a number of photos/videos with hand signs or items that link them to a group in addition to social media, statements and knowledge from informants.

RELATED: The Code of Silence | If you know something, should you say something?

Reichel said that harsher sentences for minor crimes that end up linked to gangs could be a root of the problem because for a gang-related crime you could be sent to state prison where you'll be separated into specific groups of gangs to prevent violence, furthering people's connection to the gang.

"They force you to segregate into that gang from that neighborhood you came from or you're affiliated with and now you're spending 10 years in the state prison and you come out for vandalizing a car but it was 'gang activity,'" explained Reichel.

As for Sunday's shooting, whether it's the start of a "gang war," Hernandez said he has no idea, only that it should be a reality check to the general public.

"I think what we're dealing with now is a reality check... and to say that six people being murdered is a reality check, I would say is insensitive but it's time for people to awaken that there really is a problem here," said Hernandez.

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► WATCH MORE ABC10:  Sacramento Police Chief Kathy Lester answers questions about the shooting investigation.

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