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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Teen Killed in Suspected Gang Attack in Oxnard

Crime: Police seek four assailants in the shooting of Felipe Ramirez, 17, whose kin had moved to the area 19 years ago after a family member's violent death in San Diego. It is city's ninth homicide of the year.

November 16, 2000|TIMOTHY HUGHES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

OXNARD — A 17-year-old Oxnard youth, whose family moved from San Diego nearly two decades ago to escape street violence, was shot and killed by four suspected gang members as he stood with his brother just half a block from his home.

Felipe Ramirez was pronounced dead from a single gunshot to the torso after the shooting about 8:20 p.m. Tuesday in the 900 block of Cedar Court.

Felipe, who had recently completed a leadership training class with other students at his school, the alternative Pacific View Day Community School in Oxnard, was not affiliated with any gang, although his four assailants most likely were, said Oxnard Police Sgt. Jim Seitz.

"They were going into a neighborhood looking for trouble," Seitz said of the assailants. ". . . I have no idea what is causing this."

Police have no suspects.

Seitz said Felipe's death is the city's ninth homicide this year, compared with six for all of 1999.

The last four weeks have been particularly violent. On Nov. 8, Ricardo Hinojosa was shot and killed by the owner of a truck he was allegedly vandalizing in south Oxnard. Two weeks earlier, Oxnard resident Teresa Rodriguez was arrested in connection with the death of a 14-month-old boy in her care. The same night, two teenage boys, ages 16 and 17, were shot and wounded in the 2400 block of El Dorado Avenue. On Monday, 20-year-old Armando Sepulveda was shot in the arm while driving on Salem Drive in the unincorporated El Rio area near Oxnard.

The recent spate of shootings has detectives from Oxnard and the Ventura County Sheriff's Department looking for similarities, but they said Wednesday that it's too early to draw any connections.

Like Felipe, Sepulveda was not a known gang member, said Sheriff's Det. Steve Rhods.

The area where Felipe was shot is well-known gang territory. He was shot on a sidewalk directly across from Durley Park, an area that has been the site of numerous gang killings over the last decade. In a nine-month stretch in 1996, five young men were killed in and around the park.

At the time of Tuesday's shooting, investigators said, Felipe was standing about half a block from the second-story, two-bedroom apartment he shared with his parents and four brothers and sisters.

As he stood talking with his brother, Jose, 19, and a friend, four males approached and asked what gang they were from.

Jose Ramirez said he told the four that he and his brother were not gang members.

One of the four yanked a chain from Felipe's neck, and Felipe retaliated by throwing a bottle at the group. At that point, one of the four pulled out a handgun and opened fire. The four fled up a dark section of Cedar Court, and Felipe fell to the sidewalk, a bullet lodged in his abdomen.

Wednesday morning, members of Felipe's family crowded into the cramped apartment where they have lived for 19 years. His mother, Ofelia, sat on a living-room couch, wiping away tears as she stared at a wall filled with pictures and a large poster of the Virgin Mary.

Felipe's aunt, Maria Rendon of Oxnard, said she along with her sister's family had moved from San Diego after their brother, Juan, was shot and killed. After his death, the family pulled up roots and headed north to Oxnard, where they hoped to find less gang violence.

In Felipe's bedroom, his sister Gabriella, 21, sat next to the stereo system where he practiced for his occasional deejay gigs.

"Why, why, why did this have to happen?" she screamed in Spanish. "He was such a nice boy."

Half a block away, two crosses and three candles marked the spot where Felipe died.

An hour before he was shot, his mother said, Felipe had filled out an application for a job at an office on Esplanade Drive as part of his graduation requirements.

Those who knew Felipe at Pacific View Day Community School, where he was working to earn his high school equivalency degree, said they will hold a carwash at the school Saturday afternoon to help his family pay for Felipe's funeral.

John Moore, career guidance counselor at the school, said Felipe was known as someone quick with a word of advice and concern. Moore said he often relied on the bright 17-year-old to counsel other students who may have had troubles at home or in the classroom.

Just two weeks ago, Moore led Felipe and another group of students on a weekend retreat in Malibu, where they took a course in leadership peer counseling. Moore said Felipe often talked about graduating and joining the Army to help his father, a forklift operator at the Pictsweet Mushroom Farm in Oxnard.

"He was trained to help other kids," Moore said. "When students had problems, they could go to him. He wanted to graduate. He really wanted to. He was very focused, but he hung out in the wrong crowds."

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