A man who police believe was stealing fighting roosters from the backyard of a home in Santa Ana was shot twice early Tuesday and died a short time later at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital.
Salvador S. Tinajero, 37, was shot with a small-caliber pistol outside a house at 4714 West 5th St. at about 1:25 a.m., police said. He was struck in the chest and leg, and died at 2:01 a.m.
Seven men who live at the house were detained for questioning, but they were later released.
Although police reported that Tinajero was shot after he took two roosters valued at about $150 each, the slain man's family denied that he stole the birds. "My dad wouldn't go over there to steal roosters," Sal Tinajero, 15, said. However, he said his father had raised roosters until city animal control officers ordered a stop to the practice about a year ago. Cockfighting is illegal.
"It does not appear that he was an uninvolved bystander," Police Sgt. Collie Provence said, pointing out that witnesses had indicated that Tinajero had a rooster in each arm when shot.
Tinajero's wife, Ofelia, said he left home shortly after 11 p.m. Monday to buy some cigarettes. She said she believes that he met a friend and another man who offered to give him a ride and then stopped by the 5th Street home. Police said evidence indicates that three men accompanied the victim at the time of the shooting.
Ofelia Tinajero said that her husband's friend told her that Tinajero didn't go into the house and was standing outside when a fight erupted and four men came out of the house, one armed with a gun. As Tinajero fled to the car, he was struck by the bullets, she related.
"I believe the shots weren't meant for him," she said, speaking through an interpreter. She said she believes that her husband didn't know anyone in the house.
A neighbor, who declined to give his name, said he was awakened by the shots and saw three men running to what he believes was a white Volkswagen Rabbit parked across the street. "I saw one guy kind of stumble into the car, then it backed up onto the sidewalk, turned around and drove away," he said.
The roosters were gallos de pelea --fighting cocks, said Carlos Alvarez, 19, a resident of the home who said he was arrested after the shooting and released at about 5 a.m. He said he lives with a cousin and a friend in an addition to the home and didn't see the shooting.
Speaking outside the house Tuesday afternoon, where one of six rooster coops in the backyard appeared to have been pried loose, Alvarez said the house was burglarized about a month ago. A sign on the front door reads, "You Loot, I Shoot."
Tinajero had been married for 16 years and is survived by his wife and three children. He had worked for about 15 years as a forklift driver at Kerr Glass in Santa Ana.