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Increasing gang fights 'concerning' to police

A street fight on New Year's Day has police concerned about escalating gang violence in the Rogue Valley.

Medford police said they have seen rising tensions between people associated with Norteños and Sureños, Hispanic gangs with roots in the California prison system.

"It's certainly concerning to us," Medford police Lt. Tim Doney said. "We hope to get this stopped before someone gets killed."

At about 1:40 p.m. on New Year's Day, employees of Rapid Repo and Collections flagged down a Medford police officer to report that they had stopped to intervene in a large fight at Fourth Street and Columbus Avenue, Doney said.

About half a dozen young men had clashed in the area after insults were exchanged between a young man on a bike and a group of people passing by in a car. The posturing turned to physical violence, and ultimately someone in the car showed a gun and someone smashed the car's windows with a metal pipe, Doney said.

When the security guard stopped, the car fled and several people ran away, but he detained two people, police said. Mercy Flights paramedics treated them for cuts and scrapes. A 17-year-old boy and a 22-year-old man were cited and released on charges of disorderly conduct.

A witness told police which direction the car had gone, and officers found it parked in the 500 block of Plum Street, near Union Park. They went to a house there, talked with the residents and found a Central Point man hiding in the attic. Officers used pepper spray to flush Saul Randy Rodriguez, 21, of the 5700 block of Drake Avenue, Central Point, from hiding, then lodged him in jail on a charge of disorderly conduct.

Police continue to look for others involved in the fight.

"We have been dedicating resources to this," Doney said. "We have zero tolerance. If there is something we can charge them with to get them into the system, we will."

— Anita Burke