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Teens Not Targeted In N.Va. Shooting

Sources Suspect Mistaken Identity

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 26, 2005; Page B01

The three teenagers who were shot Friday night in an Alexandria area apartment complex, including one who was killed, were probably victims of mistaken identity and not the intended targets of their assailants, sources close to the investigation said yesterday.

Fairfax County homicide detectives have not found any indication that Anthony Campos, 15, or his two friends were members of any gang, but investigators believe the suspects almost certainly were gang members. No suspects were in custody yesterday in the county's first slaying of the year.

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Campos and another 15-year-old were standing outside the apartments at 5600 Bismach Drive, just off Edsall Road, and a 13-year-old friend was in the foyer, Fairfax police said. About 8:30 p.m., two men approached, and one of them fired at the three teenagers, killing Campos and wounding the others in the upper body.

Gang violence has plagued Northern Virginia in recent years, particularly as such Latino gangs as Mara Salvatrucha and South Side Locos attack each other with fists, machetes and handguns in retaliation for perceived slights or prior incidents. A shotgun slaying in Arlington on Jan. 10 is being investigated for gang ties, and federal prosecutors have taken over a May slaying in Herndon that allegedly involved two members of Mara Salvatrucha.

Campos's family said Monday that Campos might have known some gang members, but he did not belong to a gang. "I just want it known for a fact," his brother Johnny Campos said. "Tony was not involved in any gangs. He never affiliated with any gangs. Tony was not a gangbanger."

After several days of investigation and interviews with the surviving victims, Fairfax police agreed that Anthony Campos did not appear to have gang ties. The South Side Locos gang is known to have a presence in the apartment complex where the shooting occurred, investigators have learned.

Police have not found any indication that Campos or his friends were involved in any confrontation or incident prior to the shooting, and the surviving victims reportedly have not been able to indicate why someone might shoot them.

Gang conflicts in Northern Virginia are driven mainly by rivalry between gangs -- membership in one means war with all others, both gang members and police have said. Organized crime within each gang is limited, and territories are marked vaguely.

But when one gang spots a member or members of another gang -- chavalas, in gang jargon -- then gang protocols virtually require a fight. And if one side wins a fight, police said, the losing side must avenge its honor.

Detectives believe that an incident between some South Side Locos and another gang, possibly Mara Salvatrucha, triggered Friday night's violence. But street sources are unclear what specific incident sparked the need for retaliation and where it occurred.

Campos and his friends were huddled in the Friday night cold in thick clothing, wearing items that could have been mistaken for gang-type clothing. They stood in an area linked to South Side Locos.

"Somebody sees this group sitting in there," a source familiar with the investigation said, "runs up and blasts 'em. And they were wrong. It doesn't appear that any of these kids are gang members."

No one was robbed, and no words were exchanged, sources said, further indicators of a gang incident.

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