Police need public's help solving several W. Phx homicides, warn of more violent crime

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Officers went door to door Tuesday afternoon to talk to residents about four recent unsolved homicides and hand out Silent Witness fliers. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Officers went door to door Tuesday afternoon to talk to residents about four recent unsolved homicides and hand out Silent Witness fliers. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
Police are looking for information about four specific cases. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Police are looking for information about four specific cases. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

The Phoenix Police Department is warning people about "an increase in violent crimes in areas of West Phoenix."

"Although the motives for most crimes are frequently recognizable, detectives are still working to identify the motives in several recent homicides in the area," Sgt. Jonathan Howard said in a news alert.

Howard said investigators could use the public's help solving those cases.

Officers were in the neighborhood of 63rd Avenue and Palm Lane, which is between Encanto Boulevard and McDowell Road, Tuesday afternoon to hand out Silent Witness fliers about the unsolved cases.

"The officers will be working to make more contacts with the community in an attempt to obtain additional information regarding these incidents," Howard said.

"Although there is no specific or useful information available regarding any of the suspects in these crimes, the Phoenix Police Department is encouraging everyone to be aware of their surroundings and report suspicious activity," he continued. "This may include unfamiliar vehicles stopped or repeatedly driving through neighborhoods, disruptive activity within neighborhoods, or any other activity that is not usual for a particular area." 

Detectives are asking for the public's assistance with four specific cases. In all of them, the assailant fired from a car. Police are not sure if the victims in these cases were targeted. What's more, they have not determined motives for any of them.

"It's unusual for us to have homicides where the motive isn't readily identifiable," Howard said, describing the investigations as "extremely frustrating" for detectives. 

"Trying to make sense of senseless acts of violence like that, 'frustrating' isn't even the term that we could use. It's nearly impossible and it tugs at all of us," he said.

While investigators have not definitely linked the four cases, Howard said there are "enough similarities" to warrant concern.

All four shootings happened within a relatively small area of town -- between 55th and 67th avenues on the east and west and between Campbell Avenue and McDowell Road on the north and south.

The oldest case goes back to the night of Friday, April 1. Diego Verdugo-Sanchez, 21, was standing outside a home near 5500 W. Turney Ave. when somebody fired a gun from inside a passing car.

READ: Man killed in Phoenix drive-by shooting | Silent Witness flier (PDF)

Horacio De Jesus Pena, 32, was shot and killed just before 10 p.m. on Friday, June 3. He was just coming home from work. Officers responding to a shots fire call found him lying in the street in the neighborhood of 6700 W. Flower St.

Witnesses told police they heard the shots but did not see anything.

READ: Phoenix man arriving home from work shot dead | Silent Witness flier (PDF)

Manuel Garcia, 19, was shot and killed while sitting in his car waiting for his girlfriend the night of Friday, June 10. It happened in the area of 6500 W. Coronado Road.

Police said another vehicle approached and Garcia had a brief conversation with the occupant(s) before he was shot.

READ: Man, 19, dies after shooting in west Phoenix; suspect sought | Silent Witness flier (PDF)

In the most recent incident involves the shooting deaths of a 12-year-old girl and a 31-year-old woman. A 33-year-old woman was badly wounded when she and the other two victims were shot early Sunday morning while sitting in a car parked in the driveway of a home in the area of 6300 W. Berkley Ave.

Investigators have not released the names of the victims.

Vague as it is, this case is the only one of the four in which police have any suspect information.

The shooter is described as a Hispanic male, 30-35 years old with a medium build. He was wearing red shorts and a white T-shirt, and was armed with a semi-automatic weapon.

READ: 12-year-old girl, 31-year-old woman dead after shooting outside Phoenix home | Silent Witness flier (PDF)

The Phoenix Police Department has long said that the community is one of its best resources when it comes to solving crimes.

If you have any information about any one of these cases, please call Silent Witness at either 480-WITNESS (948-6377) or 1-800-343-TIPS (8477). Spanish speakers may call 480-TESTIGO (837-8446). (Click or tap phone number to call from this story on your mobile device.) You can remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000 if your tip leads an arrest and/or indictment.

MAP: Locations of four deadly shootings

PDF: All four Silent Witness fliers (oldest case to most recent)

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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