Oxnard teenager Mario Pech said he is getting tired of attending candlelight vigils for slain youth who are often younger than he is.
Mario joined a dozen community members and religious leaders Friday outside the Centerpoint Mall in Oxnard where 16-year-old Felipe Hernandez was shot and killed a day earlier after an apparent gang-related confrontation.
"It's kind of sad that I have to come to this," said Mario, 17, clutching a small, white candle that flickered in the cold breeze. "This is the fourth guy killed recently that was around my age."
Mario does not know Felipe, who authorities said moved to Oxnard eight months ago from Santa Rosa in central Mexico. But Mario's brother, Anthony Pech, 24, was slain last March, authorities said, after two men broke into his house and shot him.
"I'm here just to show support," Mario said. "We had a lot of support when this happened to my brother."
Joseph Leon Samuel, 25, of Oxnard, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in that crime. Police said Friday evening they were still looking for the killer and accomplices who shot Felipe in a breezeway next to a Mervyn's Department store.
"We are going to continue beating the bushes and coming up with leads until we find the individuals responsible for this," said Det. Tim Lumas of the Oxnard Police Department.
Although the suspects may be gang members, police said there is no indication that Felipe was affiliated with any local gang.
Members of two fledging support groups for parents and friends of murder victims brought various signs to the vigil, including one reading, "Who Will Be Next? Your Son?"
Thursday's killing marks Oxnard's third homicide in 1996 and the eighth since September 1995.
Opening the vigil, the Rev. Larry Tyler Wayman of the North Oxnard United Methodist Church said that Felipe's death affects all of Oxnard.
"We have to do something as members of the faith community," Wayman said. "We have to pray."
Pam Maye, a 43-year-old Oxnard resident who held a youth in her arms as he died from a gunshot wound in September, said the latest killing was particularly jarring because it occurred in the afternoon at a mall.
"This is scary," said Maye, whose nephew was friends with Martin Alaya Banuelos, a 16-year-old Oxnard resident who was shot and killed in front of his home. "[Criminals] are getting so brazen."
Suzie Pech, Anthony Pech's mother, told the crowd she knows what it is like to lose a son.
"It's a nightmare that no mother should have to experience," Pech said. "These tears, as many as we shed, do not take the pain away. My tears are for this boy who died yesterday. It has got to get better."