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Gang member escaped O.C. drug rehab center and shot rival, police say

October 19, 2011 |  2:12 pm

Bryant Islas SAPD mugshot

This post has been corrected. See note at bottom for details.

A suspected Santa Ana gang member who allegedly walked away from a drug rehab facility and shot a rival has been charged with attempted murder, authorities said

Santa Ana police are offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest of two others connected to the shooting, which took place in August.

Bryant Islas, 28, a parolee, has been arrested and charged with attempted murder in the case. Islas was on parole at a state-contracted residential drug rehabilitation center at the time of the shooting.

Islas is a documented member of a Santa Ana street gang, though police declined to name the gang.

Islas, who has been sentenced to prison three times, twice for narcotics convictions, had violated his parole in May with a positive drug test and was sent to the California Institution for Men in Chino, said Luis Patino, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

In early August he was transferred to Cactus Gardens, a drug-rehabilitation center in Garden Grove.

On Aug. 31, Islas allegedly left the center and went to an Orange County Adult Education Center in Santa Ana. Across the street from the school, an adult student affiliated with a rival gang was buying lunch at a Taco Bell, authorities said.

When the student returned to the school, Islas and another man allegedly got out of the car and shot him six times in the torso. The victim, whom police declined to identify, survived but continues to recover from the life-threatening wounds.

Authorities said a gang rivalry was the motive in the attack.

As they investigated the shooting, detectives came to focus on Islas, said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna

Islas' parole agent told detectives he had absconded from Cactus Gardens on Sept. 1. When detectives contacted Cactus Gardens personnel they were told that he’d also left the center without notifying staff on Aug. 31 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., then returned that afternoon.

Cactus Gardens did not report Islas' Aug. 31 departure to state parole agents or to local police departments, Patino said. Islas had also apparently tested positive for drugs while at Cactus Gardens and was told he was going to be removed from the faciilty, but never was, Patino said.

“He was reinstated and we were not informed of either action,” Patino said.

Patino said the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation had removed seven parolees who were housed at Cactus Gardens and it is “very possible” they would not use the center again.

Officials at Cactus Gardens did not return a Times phone call.

A state parole apprehension team arrested Islas earlier this month at a Motel 6 in Santa Ana.

Gang investigators believe two others were involved in the shooting.

“There were a lot of people on the street. By putting out this person’s picture, we’re hoping that’ll jog people’s memories” about the others involved, Bertagna said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Santa Ana Police Department’s gang unit at (714) 245-8648.

[For the Record, 4:50 p.m., Oct. 19: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that Islas escaped from the drug rehabilitation facility. He left the center without notifying staff.]

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-- Sam Quinones
twitter.com/samquinones7

Photo: Bryant Islas. Credit: Santa Ana Police Department

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