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Clues Sought in Slayings at Party in Oxnard Yard

Authorities step up anti-gang efforts after gunmen open fire, killing two men.

September 09, 2003|Amanda Covarrubias | Times Staff Writer

Oxnard police on Monday were still trying to determine who was responsible for a shooting at a birthday party over the weekend that left two men dead and five people wounded.

The shooting early Sunday morning was gang-related but no suspects have been named, Police Chief Art Lopez said.

"These guys are thugs," Lopez said, adding that the Police Department will be taking both short- and long-term steps to crack down on gang violence in the city of nearly 200,000 residents.

In coming days, volunteer clergy will counsel gang members to try to prevent further violence, and they will also fan out in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred to calm residents, Lopez said.

Over the long term, the Police Department will continue to work closely with anti-gang organizations, and officers will increase their visibility in areas of the city where gangs are known to operate, Lopez said.

Oxnard police officers also will work with the Ventura County Sheriff's Department's crime suppression unit specifically to combat gang activity.

"We really want to be able to change the ways these gangs go about doing business," Lopez said.

"We're still sorting through things at this point," said Cmdr. Brian MacDonald, the lead investigator. "We're still deep into this. With this many victims, it's time-consuming to sort out all the facts and issues," he said.

Killed were Augustine David Medina, 20, of Oxnard and Gilberto Gutierrez Hernandez, 19, of Somis.

Both had been shot in the chest by at least two gunmen who walked into the backyard birthday party in south Oxnard about 12:45 a.m. and opened fire.

Four men and a woman also were shot and suffered minor to moderate injuries.

MacDonald said detectives would try to interview as many of the 30 to 50 people who attended the party as possible in their search for leads and clues.

"Unfortunately, when these things happen, people tend to duck and disappear," he said. "We may never find all the witnesses who were there."

The killing did not appear to be linked to other recent incidents of gang violence in the city or in Ventura County, MacDonald said Monday.

Oxnard City Councilman John Zaragoza, who met with Lopez and the city manager Monday to discuss the shooting, said Lopez will give the City Council a report on the department's anti-gang efforts at today's council meeting.

"These young men are taking life without understanding the value of life," Zaragoza said. "It's a cancer in this city."

The deaths marked the 16th and 17th homicides in Oxnard this year, compared to 12 homicides in all of last year.

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