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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

9th Suspect Charged in Gang Killing of Teen

Crime: Police now say as many as 20 people joined the '99 attack on William Zara and more arrests could follow.

August 23, 2000|TINA DIRMANN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Eleven months after teenager William Zara was beaten to death in front of his Ventura Avenue area apartment, a ninth gang member has been charged in the attack.

Police now believe that as many as 20 members of a local gang and their associates participated in the September 1999 attack and say there could be more arrests.

"We just want to send a message that we won't rest until every person who played a role in the death of William Zara is identified, arrested and put to justice," Deputy Dist. Atty. Bill Haney said.

Ramiro Gonzales Salgado's arrest last week marks a major break in the case, according to prosecutors, who believe the 20-year-old was one of the main assailants in the melee.

"We believe he is a direct participant in the beating," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Maeve Fox, adding that witnesses maintain that Salgado kicked 18-year-old Zara and hit him on the head with a shovel.

For months, Fox said, investigators heard rumors that another participant was involved in the fight, but they knew him only by a gang nickname.

"We heard rumors about this guy, but we didn't know who he was," she said. "Then we had a witness come forward."

Police said the witness told them the gang nickname was Salgado's and that as many as 20 people participated in the beating.

Ventura police arrested Salgado at his home Aug. 16 without incident, Det. Pat Stevens said. Once in custody, Salgado agreed to talk to detectives about the attack, authorities said.

Salgado told police he was at the Sept. 25, 1999, party at Rosana Olvera's apartment, located across the street from Zara's apartment complex on East Warner Street. But authorities would not say whether Salgado admitted to being part of the mob that stormed Zara's home that evening.

Authorities earlier said the angry group incorrectly believed Zara had called police to complain about noise from their party. They wanted to teach him a lesson, prosecutors said.

Several of Zara's neighbors allegedly were attacked by Olvera, 36, her husband, Frank Olvera, 33, and others. All are considered members or associates of a gang that dominates the Ventura Avenue area, police said.

During the attack, police said, Zara grabbed a bat to defend his neighbors, but several attackers turned on Zara, beating him with a shovel, stabbing him and bludgeoning him with his own bat.

The assault lasted only a few moments, witnesses said. The attackers then scattered in different directions and some neighbors reported hearing laughter.

Zara was rushed to Ventura County Medical Center, but he was removed from life-support systems the next day.

Indicted by the Ventura County Grand Jury in December on charges of murder and conspiracy to commit assault were the Olveras; Terry Schell, 22; Chris Gonzales, 22; Mario Jaquez, 19; Benny Mendez Lopez Jr., 18; and Thomas Barrios, 21, all of Ventura. A 14-year-old boy also was arrested, and his case is set for trial in Juvenile Court on Sept. 1.

Salgado faces charges of murder, conspiracy, causing serious bodily injury and using a deadly weapon in the assault.

The adult defendants also are each being charged with one count of committing the crime as part of a criminal street gang.

Salgado is scheduled for arraignment Sept. 8.

The other defendants are scheduled to stand trial Nov. 27.

Prosecutors hope to consolidate all the cases for one trial later this year.

* Times staff writer Tracy Wilson contributed to this story.

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