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Man Killed as He Aids Friends Being Robbed : Violence: Jay Chavez Jr. and his girlfriend had gone to Santa Monica beach to celebrate his new start in life.

July 28, 1993|NANCY HILL-HOLTZMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A romantic evening for two couples on a moonlit Santa Monica beach turned deadly Monday night when a Whittier man was killed as he rushed to aid friends who were being robbed.

Jay Chavez Jr., 34, was pronounced dead at the scene from a small-caliber bullet wound to the head. The killing, the first this year on Santa Monica's beaches, occurred at the water's edge about half a mile north of the Santa Monica Pier about 9 p.m.

According to the victim's cousin, Chavez's excursion to the beach was a celebration of a new start. Recently paroled from prison, Chavez had gotten a job and his life was on track again.

"He was celebrating by going to the beach with his girlfriend," said Diego Bermudez, 19. "This doesn't surprise me how he died--taking a bullet for someone else. That's the kind of person he was, always taking care of everyone else."

Santa Monica Police Sgt. Gary Gallinot said the two couples, who had come to the beach together, were on separate blankets 50 feet apart when one couple was approached by three assailants.

The trio, armed with a knife and a gun, demanded money. "When the woman said she had no money, they began pistol-whipping her," Gallinot said.

Chavez hurried to his friends' aid but was shot. The assailants ran toward a parking lot at 1150 Pacific Coast Highway, Gallinot said.

Although some of the dozen or so cars in the lot were occupied, police have found no other witnesses. Gallinot said it is not unusual for gunshots at a beach to go unnoticed.

"When you've got crashing waves, you can't hear anything," he said.

The woman and her companion were unable to provide a description of their attackers, except to say that the robbery demand was made in Spanish.

Despite cordoning off the area and combing the sand until mid-morning Tuesday, police found no bullet casing or other physical evidence.

Police are asking anyone who may have noticed the assailants to call Sgt. Ray Cooper at (310) 458-2273.

Police have not released the names of the witnesses. But a spokesman for Santa Monica Hospital identified the woman injured in the attack as Regina Serrano, 19, of Monterey Park.

Serrano was treated for head cuts and bruises and released from the emergency room Monday night, hospital spokesman Ted Braun said.

Chavez lived with an uncle and cousin in Whittier. It could not be determined why he had been in prison.

In an interview, the victim's cousin recalled growing up with Chavez, who was informally adopted by his aunt and uncle after getting into trouble as a teen-ager. The two were more like brothers than cousins, Bermudez said. They lifted weights together and bantered about who was the better basketball player.

Bermudez described Chavez, who had three children, as a beloved nephew, who "always showed respect to my father. . . . Even though he had the gang life, he made sure his family was taken care of first. We saw him leave yesterday. He said, 'I'll be home by 8:30.' That's the last I spoke to him. My dad is very hurt."

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