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Motel Intruder Dies in Gunplay With Resident : Shooting: Police arrest a suspect. However, witnesses say he was only trying to protect friends and family.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 31-year-old man who burst into an Oxnard motel room was shot and killed by a resident of the motel, witnesses and authorities said Friday.

Geraldo Rodrigo Vargas was arrested on suspicion of killing Bruce Anderson of Oxnard, although witnesses said the intruder was armed and that Vargas was trying to protect his friends and family.

Anderson was taken to St. John’s Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead on arrival at 8:39 p.m. Thursday, authorities said. Anderson died from a gunshot wound to the aorta, the Ventura County coroner’s office said.

Vargas, 33, was being held in the Ventura County Jail on $250,000 bail, a jail spokesman said.

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Police said the shooting occurred about 8 p.m. Thursday at the Villa Motel at 1715 S. Oxnard Blvd.

When officers arrived, they found Anderson slumped over geraniums in front of an apartment at the residential motel, Oxnard Police Sgt. Denny Phillips said. Anderson had been shot numerous times with a small-caliber weapon, he said. Vargas surrendered peacefully, police said.

Police said the victim apparently entered the room and, during a struggle, exchanged shots with Vargas. No one but Anderson was shot.

The victim may have shot at the people in the room with a small-caliber handgun found at the scene, Phillips said.

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Detectives are continuing the investigation and have not found a motive for the intruder’s actions, Phillips said.

Inside the apartment, bullet holes scarred the wall above a baby’s crib, the ceiling of the dining area and a wall in the living room. On Friday, the two families present during the shooting huddled in another motel room, fearing that a friend of the intruder might return to harm them.

Vargas lives in the motel complex with his wife and two children. His wife, who refused to give her first name, said their family was visiting friends in the apartment Thursday night.

The friends--John, Melissa and their 2-year-old son--had invited the Vargases and another guest to watch television when the intruder appeared at the open door, she said. The family did not want its last name used.

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According to Melissa, the man said something unintelligible to John, who told the man to leave.

But the man came into the room, pulled a gun and stuck it under John’s chin, Melissa said.

Vargas’ wife yelled at the intruder not to shoot because children were in the room, Melissa said. The man then hit John, knocking him to the ground, she said.

The intruder stood over John and fired two or three shots, Melissa said.

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Vargas then grabbed his rifle, which the family had brought so it would not be stolen from their motel room, Vargas’ wife said.

The two men stood facing each other and shooting, she said.

“There were bullets flying everywhere in there,” said Vargas’ wife, whose family has lived at the motel for about six months.

Witnesses said the intruder turned and walked outside before collapsing.

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Vargas’ wife said she and her husband had recently retrieved the gun from a pawn shop after two men tried to rob them about two weeks ago.

A police press release did not mention discovery of a rifle, but police said Friday night that such weapons can be of small caliber. Residents of the 21-unit motel between Snooky’s bar and the Fantasia Nite Club bemoaned the crime-ridden area on Friday.

They complained of people urinating at their back windows and women being solicited for prostitution when they sat on the front wall of the motel. They said the motel has been hit recently by a series of burglaries. Others said it was an area for drug-related activities.

“I’m scared even being in here,” Melissa said as she surveyed the damage in the apartment Friday. “I’m afraid my little boy’s going to be hurt in here.”

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But Earl Johnson, who has managed the motel for seven years, described the area as safe.

“This . . . can happen down at the Hilton,” Johnson said, adding he did not hear the shots.

“Most of my tenants in here, they’re hard-working people. They just mind their own business.”

At the nearby Shadows Motel, friends remembered the slain man, whom they called B.J. He often lived at the motel with a friend, Manager Greg Titus said.

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Titus said B.J. tried to help others. He befriended a woman whose baby was hungry and appealed to Titus for help. The two of them visited the woman and gave her some food, Titus said.

However, Titus said B.J. could also be violent.

“He said yesterday if he ever got in a fight, there’d be blood,” Titus said. “He liked blood.”

Kirsten Lee Swartz contributed to this report.

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