YAKIMA, Wash. — A shooting that seriously wounded two teenage boys near the Yakima police station Tuesday morning was believed to be gang-related, police said.

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Both youths, 15 and 17, were in critical condition after being shot by an unknown assailant at the intersection of Fourth and Maple streets, about three blocks south of the police station.

Capt. Rod Light, a spokesman for the Yakima police department, said the 15-year-old suffered a gunshot wound to the head and was in still in surgery Tuesday evening at a local hospital.

The other youth was shot in the upper back and was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he was in “serious shape as well,” Light said. Their names were withheld by police.

Officers rushed to the area shortly after 11 a.m. and found the two youths on the sidewalk. The younger boy was conscious but not responsive. The older teen was conscious but not cooperative, police said.

Light said it appeared the youths were attacked from behind and that the weapon was a large-caliber handgun. Detectives and forensic technicians began poring over the crime scene once the victims were removed by ambulance.

No eyewitnesses have surfaced so far in the investigation, Light said.

The neighborhood near the police station, 200 S. Third St., is considered a Norteño stronghold and has been the scene of many gang shootings over the years, some of them in broad daylight.

Tuesday’s shooting was reminiscent of an attack Oct. 23 at the nearby transit center that claimed the life of a 26-year-old gang member. Two suspects, including a 15-year-old boy, were arrested in that case.

That shooting was the city’s last homicide, not counting the slayings of two Yakima men whose bodies were found in a car in the Yakima River Canyon last month. The crime scene in that case has not been firmly established.

Altogether there were six homicides in Yakima last year, the same as 2011, but half the record 12 homicides reported in 2010. Four of the six slayings last year were linked to gangs.

In addition to the transit center shooting, there have been at least three other shootings within a four- or five-block radius of the police station over the past two years.

On May 12, a young man was shot in the buttock on Pine Street between Third and Fourth streets. The shooting was said to be preceded by flashing of gang signs. No arrests were made.

On Aug. 25, 2011, a 21-year-old man was shot two or three times in the torso and legs at the intersection of Pine and Fourth streets. Police believed it to be gang-related.

And on March 29, 2011, a 21-year-old motorist was shot in the arm after exchanging words with someone on foot near the intersection of Naches Avenue and Beech Street.

All three victims in those shootings survived.

• Chris Bristol can be reached at 509-577-7748 or cbristol@yakimaherald.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ChrisJBristol.