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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Council Cancels Closed-Door Session With Police Chief

November 22, 2000|TIMOTHY HUGHES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

OXNARD — Prosecutors pondered what charges to file against a 15-year-old arrested in a Saturday night shooting as city leaders continued to grapple with the recent wave of violence here.

Police Chief Art Lopez was expected to address the City Council's scheduled Tuesday night meeting to spell out his plans to fight the recent round of shootings. Earlier in the evening, the council--without explanation--scrapped a plan to have a closed-door meeting with Lopez.

Mayor Manuel Lopez, who has suggested having a community forum on the shootings some time after Thanksgiving, did not attend Tuesday's meeting because he was ill. The mayor had called the closed-door meeting with the police chief to discuss his performance in the wake of two back-to-back shootings that left one Oxnard teenager dead and another injured.

Since Nov. 10, six people have been shot in Oxnard. In response, the chief has ordered more police on the streets and vowed to step up surveillance and other anti-gang activities.

Meanwhile, prosecutors will decide today whether they will charge a 15-year-old Oxnard boy as an adult in a Saturday night shooting on Wooley Road. A 16-year-old Oxnard boy was shot in the head as he walked with friends about 9:50 p.m.

The victim was taken to St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard where he underwent surgery. He was later released from the hospital, Oxnard Police Sgt. Jim Seitz said.

Seitz said detectives from the Police Department's Special Enforcement Unit arrested the 15-year-old Monday night in Oxnard as he rode in a car on Camino Del Sol.

Officers had gone to the teen's home on Ventura Road just north of the Ventura Freeway to serve a search warrant and saw him get into a car, Seitz said. They arrested him some time later after a traffic stop about 6 p.m., Seitz said.

Chief Lopez said the arrest after the stepped-up street enforcement was good news "and we're hopeful we can find other suspects."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Miles Weiss, who supervises the juvenile prosecution unit, said prosecutors will consider applying two additional tools aimed at combating street crime as they evaluate the 15-year-old's case.

If they charge him as an adult, they could attach elements of voter-approved Proposition 21 as well as the 1996 Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act, Weiss said. Proposition 21 was passed March 7 by California voters as a way to do away with fitness hearings for juveniles charged with certain felony crimes.

Since it became law, five juveniles in Ventura County have been prosecuted as adults for committing felonies. The street terrorism act imposes stiff prison sentences on defendants convicted of gang-related offenses. Eight gang members from Ventura are currently charged under the act in the 1999 beating death of William Zara.

The Saturday night shooting occurred in a section of south Oxnard bordered roughly by Wooley and Ventura roads and Oxnard and Channel Islands boulevards.

A seventh shooting in El Rio is believed to be the work of Oxnard gang members, police said. In the past, Ventura County law enforcement officials have taken other legal action to crack down on gang violence. Several years ago, prosecutors secured an injunction prohibiting gang members from attending the Ventura County Fair.

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