Ventura police have arrested a Ventura man on suspicion of murder for the stabbing death of a 14-year-old gang member earlier this week, even though investigators concede that the victim instigated the fight that led to his death.
Police investigators arrested Eric Jones, 19, late Thursday after interviewing him at his residence. He is suspected in the slaying of Ricardo Hernandez and the attempted slaying of Hector Hernandez, 16, police said.
The knife allegedly used in the slaying was found in the home of one of Jones' friends, police said.
Hernandez and two other members of the Ventura Avenue gang attacked Jones and a friend after exchanging insults during a run-in at Ventura's Grant Park, said Sgt. Roger Nustad, who headed the police investigation.
The suspect's companion during the fight, Jason Shipley, 19, of Oxnard also had a knife, but did not use it, Nustad said. Police decided against arresting Shipley for his role in the fight.
"They started the fight," Nustad said, referring to the Ventura Avenue gang members. "And the fight got out of hand."
Ricardo Hernandez was stabbed twice in the back during the melee, which lasted between 30 seconds and one minute, Nustad said.
According to the coroner-medical examiner's office, one of the stabs nicked Hernandez's aorta--the body's main artery that carries blood from the heart--causing him to die.
Hector Hernandez--no relation to Ricardo--suffered minor injuries. He was treated at Ventura County Medical Center and released, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Jones is being held on $250,000 bail at Ventura County Jail and is scheduled to be arraigned next week.
Contrary to initial suspicions, neither Jones nor Shipley belong to gangs, Nustad said.
A spokesman for the Ventura County district attorney's office said he has not yet received the Jones file from Ventura police and therefore could not comment on the case.
The news of Jones' arrest brought a small measure of relief to the victim's family.
"It won't bring my brother back, but he (Jones) deserves it," said Ruben Hernandez, 19, Ricardo Hernandez's oldest brother. "I hope he learns and next time he sees a bunch of kids, he walks away or tries to talk to them."
A 14-year-old boy who took part in the brawl said he found Hernandez's body near Ferro Drive when he returned to the scene of the stabbing shortly after running from the fight.
Both Jones and Shipley wielded knives during the fight, but only Jones made use of his weapon, Nustad said. The Ventura Avenue gang members were unarmed, police said.