The rivalry, he said, is between a set of a very old Pasadena Latino gang and a local set of the African-American gang known as Bloods. Although police said the crime cluster was definitely gang-related, they resisted labeling it a “race war.” “We don’t know exactly what’s causing this,” said police Chief Bernard Melekian. Information from sources on the street and inside prisons varies and is not necessarily accurate, he added. Melekian expressed his deep concern for the safety of Pasadenans and reiterated that the police department’s role is to “keep kids from killing each other.” It’s hard and dangerous duty enough, he noted, without society expecting public-safety officials to provide the social solutions to inter-racial problems. PASADENA – A former gang member and ex-felon from Northwest Pasadena says he has turned his life around and wants to reach out to area teens during what he terms the current gang-related race war. “City officials need to admit there’s a race war going on in Pasadena,” said Michael “Money Mike” Peterson, 38, who said he is an original member of the Raymond Avenue Crips, an African-American street gang. “I understand police and officials want to maintain Pasadena’s unblemished reputation and keep property values climbing,” he said, “but the public has a right to know what’s happening.” He said the first of four violent crimes on May 6 and 7 involved black against Latino gangs and spurred a wave of Latino-against-black retaliation attacks. The department’s Operation Safe Streets, an increased gang-enforcement effort begun in early February after several shooting deaths, had been scheduled to conclude May 9. But following a 30-day period with no deaths or shootings – before the two deaths May 7 – officials decided to prolong the operation, said Deputy Chief Chris Vicino. “We make no apologies for our efforts to stop loitering and loud parties and to give priority to all gang-related calls,” said Melekian. “Our objective is to keep citizens safe.” Melekian noted that several drive-by shootings had occurred after such parties in the city’s Northwest, and said that he is willing to take any criticism for an increased patrol presence on the streets if it protects people from violence. Peterson, a self-proclaimed authority on gang culture, is now a member of CURE, Common Unity Reaching Everybody, a Los Angeles-based anti-gang organization. As is often the case in gang culture, the basis for the fight is difficult to clearly define. Gang-related shootings occur over drug deals, retaliation or even for fun, Peterson said. “This is a race war,” Peterson said. “They’re sharing neighborhoods in Northwest Pasadena. The drug trade gets a little crowded. Some of the racial aspect entrenched in gang prison life spills out into the street. It’s about time to tell the truth.” On May 16, Jose David Elias, 20, of Pasadena; Eric Perez, 22, of Azusa; and Joseph Raymond Ruiz, 22, of Alhambra – all admitted gang members – were arrested and charged with two counts of murder for the daylight shooting deaths May 7 of Jamal Varcasia, 21, and Anthony Walker, 37, according to police. A woman – who may have been driving the get-away vehicle, according to Peterson – was also arrested. The two-day crime surge began at 11:30 p.m. May 6 when Christian Peralta, 19, was shot in the back at the Super Liquors store in the 100 block of East Orange Grove Boulevard. [email protected] (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4461 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!