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Fatal shootings raise tension between tribe and Riverside County sheriff

May 13, 2008 |  3:34 pm

SobobaThe website for the Soboba Casino in eastern Riverside County features smiling winners holding wads of cash or giving thumbs-up in front of slot machines at the tribal casino.  But today those fun-loving images are at odds with the recent violence that has struck near the Soboba Indian Reservation, where two people were shot and killed Monday after a gun battle with Riverside County sheriff's deputies.

It was the second fatal shooting affecting tribal members in less than a week.  The Riverside Press Enterprise said there has been a total of six shootings on or near the reservation in recent months involving law enforcement, increasing friction between tribal members and authorities.

Tribal Chairman Robert Salgado told The Times' David Kelly  that the hostility between the tribe and the Riverside County sheriff now resembles a near state of war. The Sheriff's Department, for its part, has denied allegations by the tribe that they were not briefed about the operations last night. A meeting has been scheduled for Friday to try and improve the situation.

Much tension remains. When Salgado, accompanied by Kelly, tried to drive to the crime scene earlier today, he was blocked by deputies armed with assault rifles:

"You see that, if I was the mayor of L.A. and I was visiting a crime scene they would have been polite and said, 'Yes sir' and 'no sir' but that's not how they treat us," he said. "They treat us all like we are threats."

-- Jesus Sanchez

Photo: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times