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Gang murder reveals San Antonio quandary.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- San Antonio is a community divided, trying to find ways to stop gang violence. City leaders differ between viewing gang members as society's victims or as violent offenders who can be deterred only through tougher laws. A recent event illustrates the division.

Judge Terry McDonald has been criticized for granting deferred adjudication to Danny Gonzalez, 19, in a gang-related murder. That means that if Gonzalez stays out of trouble for the next 10 years, all charges against him will be dropped.

McDonald said he based his decision on the lack of evidence that Gonzalez was a member of the gang involved in a 1990 shooting in which two persons were killed and two others were wounded.

McDonald said he also was not certain Gonzalez had fired the murder weapon. Gonzalez, who was 17 at the time of the killings, told NCR that he had been forced to associate with the gang and had been forced to drive gang members to the scene of the confrontation.

The judge's decision has been supported by some criminal-justice experts. At the annual meeting of the National League of Cities in New Orleans in late November, mayors, city councils and other city officials from throughout the nation heard Dave Debrotka, deputy chief of police in Minneapolis, say that the solution to the increase in violence goes beyond criminal justice. Part of the solution is economic, he said. "Jobs can be a wonderful crime-prevention program," he told NCR in a telephone interview.

Despite such advice, the San Antonio City Council passed a resolution two weeks later urging state legislators to pass stricter laws. The tough talk evolved from a meeting of eight big-city Texas mayors, including San Antonio Mayor Nelson Wolff. The group calls itself MUSCLE -- Mayors United on Safety, Crime and Law Enforcement. MUSCLE plans to pressure the state Legislature to pass laws that will more severely punish gang members and drug peddlers and even judges who are considered soft on criminals.

While the debate continues, the gang problem grows. According to the latest statistics, there are more than 3,800 gang members in San Antonio.

Meanwhile, Danny Gonzalez is making use of the court's mercy. He has earned his General Equivalency Diploma and has taken some college courses towards a degree in mechanical engineering. He also is looking for a job.
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Title Annotation:Texas gang murder sentencing leniency
Author:Rodulfo, Lillie
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Jan 8, 1993
Words:390
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