THOUSAND OAKS — Sheriff's deputies said they have arrested four people in connection with three gang-related drive-by shootings last weekend, and investigators are continuing the manhunt, which has already stretched into San Bernardino County.
Officials said Wednesday that a team of 12 deputies had arrested four people--one who was traced to Rancho Cucamonga--and booked them on felony charges in Ventura.
"We are out there in full force saturating the area," Sheriff's Sgt. Rod Mendoza said.
Although regularly cited for its low crime statistics, Thousand Oaks has experienced seven non-injury drive-by shootings this year, Mendoza said. There are six known street gangs in the city, according to law enforcement officials.
"I can't remember the last time we had three drive-by shootings in one day," Mendoza said. "But residents shouldn't take this as a sign that Thousand Oaks is under siege by gang members."
Three homes in Thousand Oaks were targeted by rival gang members in a 24-hour period beginning early Saturday morning, authorities said. There were no injuries, but several cars and a house window were shot up by semiautomatic gunfire, officials said.
One woman escaped injury when a bullet narrowly missed her in her living room.
The first shooting occurred at 12:30 a.m. Saturday in the 2000 block of Hood Drive. Members of a local gang drove up to a house party attended by rival gang members and fired a volley of bullets at several vehicles while yelling gang slogans, deputies said.
"It wasn't a gang party, but rival gang members shot up the house anyway," Mendoza said. "It's a prime example of guilt by association."
The second shooting occurred an hour later in the 300 block of Queensbury Street. Gang members fired rounds from a semiautomatic handgun at two cars at the home of a rival gang member, deputies said.
Deputies believe the targeted gang member and several accomplices retaliated with a third shooting in the 2000 block of San Miguel Street at 11:15 p.m. Saturday when several rounds were fired into a home and narrowly missed a woman lying on a couch.
Although deputies believe the second and third drive-bys are related, they are not yet sure how the Hood Drive shooting fits in, Mendoza said.
Witnesses to the shootings helped deputies identify the four suspects who were arrested, Mendoza said. The deputy refused to reveal the number of additional suspects being sought.
A 17-year-old boy was arrested Tuesday night at his home in Westlake Village in connection with the second two shootings. Deputies found a .32-caliber handgun believed to be used in the shootings in the teen-ager's home.
The suspect is being housed in Juvenile Hall while a Superior Court judge reviews his felony charges, Mendoza said. The boy was originally questioned in Rancho Cucamonga the night before, but was not arrested at the time because deputies lacked probable cause, officials said.
Mark Ponto, 21, was arrested Tuesday at a halfway house in Pacoima because deputies believe he was the shooter in the San Miguel Circle incident. He was arraigned in Ventura County Superior Court on Wednesday and charged with a felony. Ponto, who is already on parole for robbery, remains in jail in lieu of $50,000 bail, deputies said.
Deputies then arrested Cary Laviada and his girlfriend, Shanna Judkin, both 18-year-olds from Thousand Oaks, in connection with the Queensbury Street shooting. Laviada is scheduled to be arraigned today, and Judkin--who police believe was the driver--was released on $20,000 bail, Mendoza said.