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Ventura County

Man Shot Dead After Previous Attack

Violence: Santa Paula resident, slain outside his mother's house, had survived a shooting a week ago but wouldn't cooperate with police.

April 30, 2002|MARGARET TALEV | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 29-year-old Santa Paula man was shot and killed behind his mother's home, a week after surviving another shooting.

Joseph McMullen was shot at least six times in the torso shortly after 10 p.m. Sunday and died by the time authorities arrived, said Santa Paula Police Chief Bob Gonzales.

Witnesses told police they heard voices in front of the house and, moments later, several shots from the common area behind the 7th Street home, one block south of Main Street. McMullen's mother was in the house preparing for bed when the shots rang out only feet away, Gonzales said.

Police said an autopsy being performed Monday might provide clues to both shootings.

On the morning of April 22, McMullen was shot once in the back near his mother's home. He refused to cooperate when police tried to interview him and left the hospital before doctors could extract the bullet, Gonzales said.

"There's a good possibility that the people who wanted to kill him last week are the same people who wanted to kill him this week, but when somebody is uncooperative it makes it hard to focus in [on suspects]," the police chief said.

Gonzales said McMullen once had connections to a local gang but was not known to be affiliated with one at the time of his death. The style of the shooting had no gang trademarks, Gonzales added.

But McMullen did have a history of trouble with the law.

Ventura County court records show he served prison time for a 1994 burglary. Last year, he was charged in two other burglaries, each involving accomplices; a judge dismissed charges against him in both cases.

On Monday, friends and relatives gathered at the two-story home to console McMullen's mother. A man identifying himself as McMullen's brother said the family was too upset to comment. "We're just speechless," he said.

After a decade-long decline in crime, reported offenses in Santa Paula rose nearly 13% last year, according to FBI statistics. Murders and rapes dropped slightly, but burglaries, robberies and assaults climbed.

Gonzales said the city still is safer than in the mid-1990s and that new policing programs are keeping gang and drug activity at bay. Still, McMullen's death is the latest in a recent string of violence in the blue-collar city of 30,000.

Earlier this month, a 24-year-old man was hospitalized with gunshot wounds to his abdomen and an arm. In a separate shooting, two men, 22 and 20, were shot. And in another incident this month, an agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration shot a Santa Paula man in the head after the man allegedly pointed a gun at the agent. All of the shooting victims survived.

McMullen's death was the sixth homicide in Ventura County this year.

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