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Ventura County

Police Still Hunting for Gunman Who Killed College Student

Crime: Jose Pimentel was chatting outside his uncle's home when he was shot last month by a gang member.

June 27, 2002|TIMOTHY HUGHES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A month after the fatal shooting of a college student on Ventura's west side, police said they are still no closer to solving the case or developing solid leads that could lead them to the killer.

"We don't have anything," Sgt. Brock Avery said regarding the May 21 gang-related shooting of Jose Pimentel, 20. "We are still asking for the public's help. Somebody said something to someone, and now they have to have the courage to come forward and say something to us."

As they monitor the police investigation closely, members of Pimentel's family said coming to terms with the stunning death has been difficult.

"We're still in shock about what happened," said Pimentel's 24-year-old sister Norma. "We're still coping with it, but I've had to be strong so I still haven't broken down."

Pimentel, who was taking classes at Ventura College while working for a beer company in Goleta and dreaming of becoming a police officer, was gunned down as he chatted with his cousins and some friends in front of his uncle's Olive Street home about 10:30 p.m. on May 21.

Witnesses said a gunman with a shaved head and baggy clothes walked up to the group and opened fire. The group scattered as the man fired at least eight rounds and yelled out the name of a well-known Oxnard gang before fleeing on foot, witnesses said.

Pimentel, who police said was not a gang member, was shot once in the head. He died hours later.

The shooting was part of a surge of violence in Ventura and Oxnard last month that left two people dead and three injured and spurred police in both cities to look for a possible connection between the attacks.

Oxnard police have made no arrests in the stabbing death of a 15-year-old boy that occurred a day before Pimentel was shot. And no arrests have been made in connection with a shooting on May 21 in south Oxnard that sent three teenagers to the hospital.

Avery said the Pimentel shooting is similar to the case in May of last year involving Alfonso Acosta Delgado Jr. The Ventura resident was gunned down after an early morning standoff with the Ventura SWAT team. Police considered him the prime suspect in the shooting death of a Ventura Avenue grocery clerk during a robbery six weeks earlier. They caught up with Delgado only after chasing leads for weeks and interviewing and re-interviewing witnesses.

As in the Delgado case, several detectives are working full time on the Pimentel investigation and have so far conducted nearly 30 interviews of people who may have known something about the shooting.

Investigators have sought leads by talking with detectives from the Oxnard and Port Hueneme police departments as well as with members of the sheriff's anti-gang unit.

"We're still reviewing reports on the case," Avery said. "The leads haven't dried up yet. We haven't put this case in the cold stack."

To say the weeks since the shooting have been painful would be an understatement, members of Pimentel's family said.

Relatives from the Northern California town of Hayward have been taking turns visiting every weekend, offering the family comfort and assisting with household chores.

Family members said plans to move out of their cramped apartment, a block from where Pimentel died, have been put on hold. Funeral expenses cost nearly $8,000, which drained a savings account that was intended to purchase a home.

Pimentel's cousin, Salvador Pimentel, said his family has not adjusted well to life with out the man they called "Sha Na Na."

Salvador Pimentel, who narrowly missed being shot by the gunman, said the neighborhood has been gripped with fear since the night of the shooting.

"This guy was on a rampage and it could have been anybody," he said. "It's going to take awhile for us to be secure. There will always be that little voice inside saying, 'Look out! Look out!' "

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