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Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Fransisco Rangel, who they say has a Sur 13 emblem tattooed on his cheek., wanted for what officers say was a gang-related slaying

Fransisco Rangel, who they say has a Sur 13 emblem tattooed on his cheek., wanted for what officers say was a gang-related slaying, jumped out of his car in the middle of the town and began firing at pursuing deputies with an assault rife.His spray of bullets killed a passenger in a nearby car - Candelario Lagunes, a 58-year-old grandfather.
In the fast and furious fusillade, one deputy was forced to fire through his windshield as the assailant approached.The toll could have been even higher. The gunman's shooting was so indiscriminate that deputies later found holes in a traffic light.The rampage paralyzed the normally peaceful East Hillsborough town. Schools were locked down. City officials canceled the annual Christmas parade scheduled that evening.Fortunately, Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies soon caught the suspect, Fransisco Rangel, who they say has a Sur 13 emblem tattooed on his cheek.The terrifying event underscores the danger gangs pose to our community.Make no mistake. The threat to Hillsborough is real. Street gangs are not just found in urban wastelands of New York, Chicago or Los Angeles.Gangs can be found throughout Hillsborough, indeed throughout the region.Sheriff David Gee says his office has identified more than 150 gangs. Some may be small and fairly innocuous, but 50 are well-organized and linked to national criminal networks. And even some of the local gangs are violent.Officials say there are at least 3,200 gang members in the region. Their crimes may range from scribbling graffiti to trying to assassinate rival drug dealers. In the last year, Hillsborough's gang unit has handled more than 200 cases.And in the last few years, there have been gang-related shootings in virtually every part of the county, including a double-homicide in Town 'N Country.One might have gotten a different impression last spring when a judge threw out most of the charges in a major case against reputed members of the Latin Kings.The defense attorney mocked the prosecutors' warnings about gangs. And even the judge seemed to dismiss the threat of the targeted gang.The judge's ruling was correct, since Tampa Police had relied on a paid informant with a lengthy criminal record who threatened individuals into attending the meeting where they were arrested.
But any conclusion that the Latin Kings, Sur 13 or other gangs are not a grave threat to the community's safety is wishful thinking.Deputies say gangs have a major role in gun trading, dope dealing and other criminal transactions.Local law enforcement officials, to their credit, take the threat seriously.Gee created a gang-monitoring unit shortly after his election four years ago and has worked with the Tampa Police Department and other law enforcement agencies to try to keep the gangs in check.When these vicious hoodlums are allowed to run wild, they can utterly destroy a neighborhood, robbing residents of their property values and personal security.
As Hillsborough Sheriff Maj. Harold Winsett, who oversees criminal investigations, says, "People don't realize how fast a community can deteriorate if they don't pay attention to the threat."Hillsborough must take every reasonable step to keep a close eye on this criminal cancer and keep it under control


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