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Neighbors Rally Over Slain Teenager

Car washes are held in Oxnard to raise funds to pay the funeral costs of one of two youths killed during the weekend.

October 14, 2003|Sandra Murillo | Times Staff Writer

Plastered throughout Oxnard's La Colonia neighborhood Monday was a photocopied picture of the city's latest homicide victim: Froylan Martinez, the shy 16-year-old son of farm workers who preferred staying home and studying to hanging out on the street.

Police said Martinez, the city's 20th homicide victim this year, was not a gang member and called his death "a disturbing and senseless killing." The teenager was fatally shot Saturday night outside a birthday party for his next-door neighbor. No arrests have been made.

Det. Joe Chase of the Oxnard Police Department declined to say whether the shooting was gang-related or whether Martinez was a victim of mistaken identity.

"We're so early in this investigation," Chase said. "Things are happening as we speak."

Martinez's slaying was one of three shootings during an unusually violent weekend that left another teenager dead and a third seriously injured. Samuel Travis Reeves, 15, of Santa Paula was killed shortly after midnight Sunday during a brawl with a man, who pulled out a pistol and shot him in the torso.

Like Martinez, Reeves had no gang ties, said Eric Nishimoto, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Department.

Nathan Daniel Maloney, 22, was arrested Sunday afternoon in connection with the shooting of Reeves, which took place at a party attended by several hundred people on Peres Lane near Santa Paula, Nishimoto said. It's possible other arrests will be made, he said.

"It remains to be seen whether the suspect was a gang member," Nishimoto said. "Hundreds of people went to the party and took off. We're trying to track down more people to talk to."

Nishimoto said it does not appear that the incident was connected to another shooting early Sunday in Fillmore, in which a 16-year-old boy was shot in the face while attending a party. A group of three or four men pulled up in a car, and one fired several shots at partygoers shortly before 3 a.m.

The boy, whose name was not released, was being treated Monday at Community Memorial Hospital.

"We're still investigating, but we don't have any new information," Nishimoto said.

Meanwhile, as Martinez's family made burial preparations at a local funeral home, neighbors and friends of the young victim erected a small shrine in front of the home where he was shot and held separate car washes to help with funeral costs.

Dangling cardboard scraps bearing Martinez's name and grainy picture, they urged drivers along Marquita Street to stop.

"We're just trying to help the family," said 22-year-old Jessica Martinez, who is unrelated to the victim, as she and about 25 of Froylan's classmates hosed and scrubbed down neighborhood cars. "That's what neighbors do."

She said she is trying to forget Saturday night, when the festive mood at her younger sister's surprise birthday party turned into a murder scene. Froylan was never one to go out, but after Martinez dropped by the house to give him an invitation, he decided to attend.

He bought the birthday girl some balloons and a teddy bear, showered, and headed next door to the party, said Froylan Martinez's 13-year-old sister, Lupita.

The victim was standing outside the party on Felicia Court about 8 p.m. when a silver or tan car pulled up carrying three or four men. According to police accounts, the men got out of the car and began beating up one of Martinez's friends.

As he and the others tried to run, Martinez was shot near his family's home. Lupita was standing a few feet away from her brother when the shooting started. She said she had been looking in another direction and did not see him get shot.

"He landed right there," she said, pointing to the spot where neighbors were holding another car wash for her brother. "I thought people were playing with firecrackers."

When she realized what had happened, she rushed to her brother, who was lying on the ground in a pool of blood. The next thing she remembered was being held by a neighbor as ambulance sirens wailed.

She said her brother was shot in the head and shoulder. He died at St. John's Regional Medical Center on Sunday morning.

The oldest and the only boy in a family of four children, Froylan Martinez was always there to help Lupita with homework, she said.

"He hardly went out," said his sister. "He didn't have enemies."

She said her brother was shy around most people, but funny and outgoing with family. On Saturday, the two had their last of many pillow fights in his room.

He earned mostly A's in school and planned to attend college.

"His parents are devastated," said Arturo Martinez, the victim's uncle. "He wasn't the kind of kid who they worried about. Even when they went out, he just stayed home and studied."

His friends said Martinez was the last person they ever thought would be caught up in violence.

"This could've happened to any one of us," said his friend, Hector Garcia, 17. "We're not safe no more. We know that any car that comes around here could be the one where people get out and shoot us."

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