THOUSAND OAKS — A 20-year-old woman attending a birthday party in a Thousand Oaks neighborhood was killed late Friday night by a stray bullet in the city's first fatal drive-by shooting.
The victim, Jennifer Jordan, was shot in the head when a gunman fired at least four shots toward her and several others who were standing outside a house in the 200 block of Houston Drive, where the youth gang called the "Houston Hoods" often gather.
Police said Saturday that the fatal shooting marks a disturbing escalation in gang violence in normally quiet Thousand Oaks. Since 1988 there have been about half a dozen drive-by shootings, although until now the incidents have been minor.
"It was inevitable that someone was going to get killed," said Lt. William Montijo of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department. "It's unfortunate that an innocent person was hit by a stray bullet."
As of Saturday evening, police had not arrested anyone in connection with the shooting, although members of another Thousand Oaks gang are suspected.
Jordan, who was the mother of a 15-month-old girl, had been attending a birthday party for her boyfriend's mother when the shooting occurred at about 9:30 p.m.
Her boyfriend, Greg Figueroa, 23, said Jordan had just walked outside to get a cigarette from a friend who was working on a motorcycle in the garage.
Figueroa said when he heard the gunshots, he ran outside and found Jordan on the ground.
"I held her in my arms to try to stop the bleeding," Figueroa said. "I thought she was going to make it. She was breathing."
But Jordan died shortly after arriving at Los Robles Regional Medical Center.
The bullets had apparently been intended for two gang members who were walking to their car, Figueroa said.
He said he is not a member of the Houston Hoods, but he said he socializes with members of the gang. Jordan constantly asked him to break away from the group, he said.
"She would say to me, 'You're better than this,' " said Figueroa, who graduated from Westlake High School in 1985. "She was trying so hard to make things work for us."
The two were planning to marry, Figueroa said. They wanted to make a home for their baby girl, Alison.
Figueroa said he knew the dangers of being affiliated with gang members.
"I figured something like this would happen sooner or later," he said. "They hit us. We hit them. It goes back and forth."
But, he said, he never anticipated losing someone he loved.
Jordan's father, who declined to give his name, would not comment on the matter Saturday.
"We just want to be left alone," he said. Jordan had been going to school to become a nurse's assistant.
For most of the day Saturday, about half a dozen of Figueroa's friends and relatives gathered in the back yard of the Houston Drive house, talking quietly among themselves.
"We're just trying to deal with it the best we can," said one man. "It's pretty bad to kill an innocent person."
Over the last several years, gangs have cropped up in Thousand Oaks, although it has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.
Unlike some of their Los Angeles counterparts, most Thousand Oaks gangs are ethnically and economically diverse. A couple of the gangs started with only Latinos but eventually expanded to include all ethnic backgrounds. Another started as a white-supremacist group but now includes all races.
Recently police have stepped up their pressure on suspected gang members.