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‘Dr J’s’ Investigates How a 2003 Gang Shooting Changed a San Diego Neighborhood

Just after midnight on New Year's 2003, two women and two young children were on their way home from church. They stopped at Dr J's Liquor in Lincoln Park to buy a fireplace log.

What happened next is at the center of a new KPBS six-part investigation examining a crime that caused an area of San Diego to take action. The series, titled “Dr J’s,” will release one episode a day, February 20-22, and February 25-27.

KPBS reporter Claire Trageser began working on the investigation last summer, interviewing more than 20 people including the victims’ family members, the man convicted of the crime, police, church leaders, and community members.

“It was very important to me to talk to as many people as I could who live in the area to be sure I'm getting their perspectives, that it's not me coming in and saying ‘this is how it is here,’” says Trageser.

“This is a story about a part of San Diego that rarely gets media coverage, except when something bad happens, and even then it's minimal. This story took one of those bad things--a gang shooting that killed two innocent women--and followed up on it long after it had left the headlines. The series shows the impact of the shooting on the community, and tells a bigger story of how the area has changed since the shooting occurred.”

Episode synopses:

Dr J's Part 1: What Happened On New Year's Eve At Dr J's Liquor

The crime was so perfectly horrific — two women on their way home from church, two kids in the back seat — that it made people pay more attention to Southeast San Diego, a lower income and predominantly African-American pocket of the city.

Dr J's Part 2: How Policing Changed After The Dr J's Liquor Store Shooting

A gang shooting in Lincoln Park killed two women on their way home from church. After the shooting, some people said the police department flooded the streets with officers arresting everybody. Others became more willing to work with police.

Dr J's Part 3: The Families Of The Victims And The Man Convicted

The shooting at Dr J's has had ripple effects throughout the community and the rest of the city. But it also impacted the people directly involved—the families of the women who were killed, and the family of the man who was eventually convicted of their murder.

Dr J's Part 4: The Gang Stigma When A Case Goes To Trial

In the case against James Carter, the prosecutor used a common tactic when trying people from Southeast San Diego, especially young black men. He established a link between Carter and a gang, and then used that link to establish a motive.

Dr J's Part 5: The Use Of Informants In The Shooting At Dr J's Liquor

After the shooting at Dr J's, police and prosecutors looked for informants who would trade information for reduced sentences and money to move away from San Diego. One informant in particular shows what a difficult decision that can be.

Dr J's Part 6: What's Next For The Community 16 Years After The Shooting

More than 15 years after the Dr J's shooting, a lot of people are thinking about what's next. Southeast San Diego residents want the government and police to change, and they want their communities to change for the better.

The full episodes of “Dr J’s” will be available at kpbs.org/drjs and on the San Diego Stories podcast. KPBS will also feature short versions of the episodes during Morning Edition on 89.5FM (5:45am and 7:45am) and Evening Edition on KPBS-TV (5pm and 6:30pm).

KPBS Media Contact

Heather Milne Barger, (619) 594-4985

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