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Ventura County

Oxnard Man Is Fatally Shot

The laborer's death, believed gang-related, is Ventura County's 35th slaying this year.

September 16, 2003|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

The body of an unemployed farm laborer shot in the head execution-style was found near Somis early Monday, marking the 35th homicide this year in Ventura County.

That is 12 more killings than the county experienced for all of 2002 and far above the norm for a region that routinely ranks as the safest urban area in the West. The county averages 20 homicides annually.

Authorities were looking into the possibility that the killing of Felipe Gutierrez, 33, of Oxnard was gang-related. Investigators have not confirmed a link, but the way he was killed suggests gang involvement, Undersheriff Craig Husband said.

"It appears to be an execution-type killing," Husband said. "We're trying to work backwards to determine what led to this.... But it certainly has the earmarks of a gang execution."

Gutierrez's body was dumped at the edge of a dirt road on a ranch about two miles east of Somis and found by a ranch hand about 5:40 a.m.

Authorities said they have no suspect in the shooting. Some residents reported hearing shots Sunday around 11 p.m., Husband said.

"We don't know whether that fits in with this crime or not," he said.

A sharp increase in gang violence has driven much of the bloodshed in recent months, Husband said.

Once underway, the cycle of attack and retaliation can be difficult to break, the undersheriff said. The Sheriff's Department is working closely with Oxnard police and other law enforcement agencies to curb the trend before it escalates further, he said.

Homicides are the most visible sign of renewed gang activity, Husband said. But assaults and other gang-related violence are also on the rise, he said. After subsiding for years, gang graffiti is starting to appear again, he said.

"Oxnard is adding officers and they are still seeing an increase in violence," he said. "There are things happening on the streets that we are looking at and trying to address."

Deputy Medical Examiner Craig Stevens said Gutierrez was shot several times. The exact time of death is not known, but Stevens said it could have happened late Sunday night.

Investigators are asking anyone who has information on the shooting to call Crime Stoppers at 494-TALK (Thousand Oaks/Moorpark) or 385-TALK (Camarillo/Oxnard/Port Hueneme). Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000 for tips leading to an arrest and criminal complaint filed in the case.

Husband said a special crime-suppression unit has already been deployed to help crack cases, he said.

"We're doing everything we can to put a lid on it," Husband said. "But the community needs to assist us in fighting this plague."

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