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Oxnard Boy, 15, Shot to Death Outside Home

The Hueneme High student's slaying is the city's third in recent weeks. Police say the youth had no known links to gangs.

November 04, 2002|David Kelly | Times Staff Writer

An Oxnard high school sophomore with no apparent gang ties was gunned down outside his home late Saturday in a crime that shocked neighbors and left police scrambling for clues.

Steven Miinster, 15, was standing beside a wall bordering his backyard about 11 p.m. when he was shot once in the torso, police said. He was rushed to St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard and pronounced dead half an hour later.

"This is one of the younger homicides we have had," said Oxnard Police Cmdr. John Chronister, "You don't know if this was a random act or if someone was out there just shooting. We really don't know much at this point."

While police said they had no real leads, neighbors in the tough south Oxnard community said Sunday that Steven was in bed sleeping Saturday when he got a call from a girl who asked to meet him outside.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday November 05, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 12 inches; 439 words Type of Material: Correction
Oxnard officer -- The first name of an Oxnard police commander was incorrect in some editions of Monday's California section. He is Cmdr. Tom Chronister.

He left his home, walked a few feet around the corner and was shot, said a neighbor who requested anonymity.

Oxnard police said they have no information about such a call.

Police and neighbors said the lanky Hueneme High School student had no known gang affiliations.

The slaying is the 11th in Oxnard this year and the third in recent weeks. Two men, a Navy reservist and a fast-food worker, were shot and killed last month. The reservist's death may be tied to gang hostilities, police said.

On Sunday, friends and family in Steven Miinster's working class neighborhood near Saviers Road gathered near the spot where he was shot and tried to make sense of the violence.

The victim's 7-year-old sister, Erica, stared silently at the blood-stained sidewalk. Balloons, candles and a huge card saying, "We'll miss you Steven" were placed against the orange wall.

"We heard the gunshot; around here you hear gunshots all the time," said Maria Miinster, the boy's mother, who has five other children. "I came out and saw him laying on the sidewalk. I don't know why he was outside. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is a lot of gang activity around here."

Saturday was a big day for Steven, his mother said. He cashed his first check from his new clerical job in the high school office. His mom drove him to the bank, and when he got his money, he promptly gave some to her.

"He gave us money when he had it. He was trying really hard, trying not to go the wrong way," she said. "He was always home. He didn't drink or take drugs, nothing like that. Everybody liked him -- teachers, friends."

The family, longtime Oxnard residents, had only lived in their nondescript one-story tract home near Bryce Canyon Avenue and B Street for a year, and now may move.

"I don't feel safe anymore," Miinster said.

The slaying hit the neighborhood hard, leaving dozens of mourners red-eyed and somber. People wandered past the makeshift memorial, lingering for a moment to read or write an inscription.

"I heard about it and I thought, 'Not him' " said 15-year-old Violet Lerma, the teen's cousin. "Why him? He was such a nice person."

One person wrote: "Don't 4get that you were my 1st true friend like a brother to me.... I'll always love and I'll never forget about you."

An uncle said Steven wrote rap songs and attended church.

The boy's aunt, Juanita Suniga, 52, works with special needs children at Hueneme High School and remembered how he greeted her around school.

"He'd give me a kiss no matter who else was watching," she said. "He always had a smile on his face. He was always happy."

Philip Gastelum, 41, a family friend who had known Steven since he was 2 months old, shook his head as he placed balloons on the wall.

"I can't believe it just happened," he said. "I don't know why they would shoot him. He was only 15 years old."

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