VENTURA — Two men arrested in the beating death of 18-year-old William Zara were released from jail Wednesday, and a few hours later more than 30 of the young victim's friends and family gathered at the site of the slaying to mourn their loved one.
Authorities said there was not enough evidence to charge Frank Olvera, 33, and Terry Paul Schell, 22, with Zara's slaying. Both men were arrested Friday night.
But Zara's family said they would not focus on the alleged attackers for the moment. Instead, Zara's father, Sam Zara, led mourners in a "drum ceremony," a somber Native American service to honor the passing of a loved one.
"He was a person of peace," Zara's father said, "so this is a peaceful ceremony."
A memorial of candles, pictures, flowers and friendship beads stood outside Zara's small apartment complex, where he was beaten by an angry mob Friday night. He was pronounced dead Sunday afternoon.
A soft drum beat sounded in the background as friends formed a circle in the complex's tiny courtyard and hung on to one another.
Friends at the ceremony said it was an ironic twist that their friend, known for his serenity, had been taken in such a violent manner.
"That's why it was so shocking," said friend Robert Day, 22. "We would expect it if he were an angry, violent person. But he wasn't. He was just defending his friends."
Authorities said a group of neighbors across the street from Zara attacked him in front of his apartment in the 300 block of East Warner Street just before 10 p.m. Friday. Police said they believe the neighbors thought Zara had called authorities to complain about noise.
But friends say it wasn't Zara who made the call.
"We give parties all the time ourselves," said one neighbor who asked not to be identified. "So why would any of us call about somebody else?"
As the neighbors attacked residents of the complex who came to Zara's defense, Zara got a bat from his apartment to try to fend off the assailants, witnesses said. But the attackers took the bat and used it to beat Zara.
Police say they believe that Olvera and Schell were involved but that others also participated.
"We're not convinced these are the only two people involved, and we're still trying to determine the extent of their involvement," said Ventura Police Chief Mike Tracy. "But we do expect to put all the pieces together."
Residents of the apartments where Zara was attacked said they are outraged at the release of Olvera and Schell. And many said they feared retaliation.
"I'm leaving," said a neighbor of Zara's who asked that his name not be used. "I've got a wife and a kid to take care of. I can't worry about walking outside to smoke a cigarette and seeing these guys right across the street."
At least three others in the four-unit complex have also said they will move, the man said.
Patrol officers were told to make extra drive-bys on East Warner Street as a precaution, said Ventura Police Lt. Gary McCaskill.
The Ventura Theater, where Zara occasionally worked, has planned an Oct. 24 benefit concert for Zara's family.
Zara's name hangs on the glowing marquee above the theater, and a giant poster with a picture of him and a summary of his death is posted outside.
Wednesday evening, after the drum ceremony, Zara's mother, Laura Barri-Welch, who flew in from Arizona, stood in front of her son's poster and openly wept.
A neighbor said, "I just really wish this was all about Billy being famous, so everyone could see and know him for themselves. We'd all give our souls for that."