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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Man Killed in Latest Shooting Blamed on Gangs

Oxnard: The victim, 22, dies after being struck in early morning attack. Mayor asserts 'sense of urgency' in combating violence.

November 27, 2000|CATHERINE BLAKE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

An Oxnard man was shot and killed early Sunday morning in the eighth apparent gang-related shooting in Oxnard and El Rio in 17 days.

Ray Caballero, 22, was associated with an Oxnard gang, authorities said, but they have no suspects in his death.

Caballero, known as "Kiki," was driving his wife's car near the 1400 block of East 1st Street at 4 a.m. when he was shot once in the chest, Oxnard police said.

As a result, he lost control of the car and plowed into the driveway of a nearby house, hitting a wall and the resident's car.

He died of the gunshot wound about an hour later.

Caballero's death came in the midst of ongoing gang violence in Oxnard.

From Nov. 10 through 18, there were six shootings in an area bordered roughly by Wooley and Ventura roads and Channel Islands and Oxnard boulevards.

A seventh shooting in El Rio during the same period is believed to be the work of south Oxnard gang members.

The shootings have alarmed Oxnard officials, who had touted a recent reduction in the city's crime.

Police Chief Art Lopez, who was called before the City Council last week to report on the spate of shootings, said he needed more information before characterizing the latest as another in the series.

Oxnard Mayor Manuel Lopez said Caballero's death adds a "sense of urgency" to the city's work in fighting the violence. He called for a round of community meetings to look at what can be done to stop the shootings.

Residents of the home into which Caballero crashed thought the accident was a hit-and-run, because they didn't see a driver in the car.

But authorities found Caballero slumped over in his seat, partially covered by a discharged air bag.

He was taken to St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard, where he was pronounced dead about 30 minutes after arrival, said senior deputy coroner Craig Stevens.

Around 11 a.m. Sunday, about 20 of Caballero's relatives and friends mourned his death near the site of the accident.

Caballero's wife, Liana, said the two celebrated their son's second birthday at a nearby park on Saturday afternoon and then returned to their home on the same street where he died.

He sang her a rap song he had recently written expressing his love for her, she said.

The couple, who met at a camp for "at-risk" youth, had been together five years.

Caballero had spent much of the last two years in prison for carjacking and assault with a deadly weapon, his wife said.

"He wasn't innocent," said Liana Caballero, 21, from inside their living room, her eyes tearing while she looked at pictures of the couple dressed in costume for Halloween. "He loved Halloween, anything where he could be a kid again. He never got a chance to be a kid because these streets were so rough."

Margaret Ortega, the victim's aunt, said he wasn't a gang member. He was "born and raised in La Colonia, and he had a lot of friends there," she said.

Caballero had three sons, his wife said, and was struggling to find a job when he was killed.

A high school dropout, he learned dry cleaning and landscaping while in prison.

"If he had a job he wouldn't be out there at 3 or 4 in the morning, but no business would hire him," Liana Caballero said.

"He wanted to work so bad. All he needed was a chance."

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