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Suspects in Des Moines’ 19th Homicide This Year Have Criminal Gang Charges in Their History

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DES MOINES, Iowa  --  The suspects in a fatal shooting on Friday have both faced criminal gang participation charges.

Along with the gang charges, 19-year-old Miguel Angel Lorenzo Baltazar faced assault and weapons charges in 2016, and 22-year-old Anthony Garcia faced gang charges just last week.

While police aren't saying the shooting that killed 23-year-old Jeffrey Mercado is gang-related yet, they do say it was not a random killing.

“The investigation came together pretty quick last night because we had these guys in custody quickly after the incident," said Des Moines Police Spokesman Paul Parizek. "All the evidence right now indicates that it was definitely a targeted incident. The two suspects are charged with murder, they sought this man out and shot him. There's definitely some gang history with these people who were involved, so that probably is a piece that we're looking at."

Police say this is nothing new, and if this kind of violence is to be stopped, there needs to be intervention on a person-to-person level.

“The thing about gang violence is if you want to start preventing it, gangs don’t create gang members, gang members create gangs. So we have to keep our focus on the youth in the community before they even get to that point. We have to make sure that they've got the right tools to make the right decisions because that's what's going to keep them out of these gangs,” said Parizek.

Police say if this shooting was the result of gang activity between the suspects and the victim, their radar will be up for potential retaliation.

“We're prepared to dedicate our resources in the right places and maybe put a little pressure on the right people to do what we can to prevent that. But again, this is all on the back side. The front side is educating our kids to stay away from these gangs,” said Parizek.

Mercado did not have any gang-related charges in the Iowa Court System.