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Community group to try to find people behind five Phoenix killings

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PHOENIX — A Phoenix-area group will begin patrolling neighborhoods this weekend to catch the person or people responsible for five separate shooting incidents.

The victims were all shot to death in front of their homes in Maryvale. One died on April 1. The other four murders happened this month. The youngest victim was a 12-year-old girl. Police are offering an $11,000 reward for information through Silent Witness.

A group called the Guardian Angels wants to help solve the crimes. The same group took to the streets when two serial murderers, the Baseline Killer and the Serial Shooters, were terrorizing the Valley.

“We are a public safety patrol,” Mike Upchurch, leader of the Phoenix chapter of the Guardian Angels, said. “We go out there and patrol the streets, help deter crime and make citizen’s arrests if necessary.”

The group will walk the streets of Maryvale on Friday night. The Guardian Angels will meet at 6:30 p.m at the Food City near 51st Avenue and McDowell Road.  They say anyone who wants to join them is welcome.

“We’re going to start getting people informed and letting this guy know ‘Hey, we’re not standing for what you’re doing, and the community isn’t going to stand for what you’re doing,” Upchurch said.

The group does not carry firearms.

Upchurch said that they’ll be spreading the word about the murders and will be walking a beat.

“We’re out there as a visual deterrent,” Upchuch said. “We wear red berets or white t-shirts. We stick out like a sore thumb. Even the shooter can see that there is somebody out there doing something to deter another incident.”

Police said 21-year-old Diego Verdugo-Sanchez was killed April 1 by someone who fired at him from inside a vehicle.

They said Horacio De Jesus Pena was fatally shot June 3 after returning home from work and 19-year-old Manuel Garcia was killed June 10 when another vehicle approached his car and a shooting ensued.

“The people were all directly in front of their homes,” Phoenix Police Sgt. Jonathan Howard said in a release. “One person I think had just got home, getting out of his car. Couple others were sitting in the car listening to music.”

Police said 31-year-old Angela Linner and 12-year-old Maleah Ellis were killed while sitting in a car on June 12.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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