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Man Receives 8 Years for Boy’s Death : Courts: The judge says he wants to discourage people from reacting to vandalism with firearms.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The father of an alleged gang member was sentenced to eight years in prison Friday for fatally shooting a 17-year-old Oxnard boy whom he suspected of vandalizing his home.

Angel Rodriguez Sr., 49, had pleaded guilty last month to manslaughter and shooting into an occupied vehicle. After repeated vandalism in front of his house, Rodriguez fired the shots at a passing pickup truck on Nov. 23, hitting the victim twice.

Deputy Public Defender William D. Perryman had asked for a one-year jail sentence followed by probation. He argued that Rodriguez was responding to the earlier attacks and did not intend to hit anyone.

Deputy Dist. Atty. James D. Ellison agreed that the killing was unintentional, but argued that “probation would send the wrong message.”

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Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles R. McGrath agreed.

“I don’t want to encourage people to react to bottle-throwing with firearms,” the judge said.

Ellison and Perryman agreed on these facts:

Rodriguez and his wife and family had endured months of rock-and-bottle attacks on their home in the Lemonwood area of Oxnard. Investigators believe the attacks were prompted by their son’s gang membership. In one attack, somebody slashed all four tires on Rodriguez’s car and broke the radio antenna.

The night of the shooting, Richard Rodriguez III--no relation to the defendant--and his family were at home in the Loma Flats area of Oxnard when Richard was struck by a bottle thrown into the back yard.

The injured youth and his father, Richard Rodriguez Jr., piled into a pickup truck along with two other men. Twice they drove past Angel Rodriguez’s home. Perryman said it was because they suspected a Lemonwood gang member of throwing the bottle at Richard.

Angel Rodriguez said he heard bottles breaking outside and went to investigate, armed with a .22-caliber rifle. When the truck rounded the corner and came by a second time, Rodriguez fired, striking Richard twice in the chest.

Before the sentencing, Richard Rodriguez Jr. said his son was assassinated. “He deliberately killed him,” the father said. If the defendant was troubled by vandals, he said, “he should have called 911.”

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The father said he did not intentionally drive his son past the defendant’s home and was only following his son’s directions. He said his son’s girlfriend lived a few doors from Angel Rodriguez.

In a plea to the judge “not to let this man walk out on probation, or one or two years,” Richard Rodriguez Jr. said his son was “a good kid” and not a gang member.

“Every time they kill a Hispanic, you call him a gang member,” Rodriguez told the courtroom, which was crowded with family members of both the victim and the defendant. If his son had not been a Latino, the father said, “the D.A. would have prosecuted him to the full extent of the law.”

Rodriguez had been charged with murder, but Ellison said he accepted the plea to the lesser charge because it fit the facts. Angel Rodriguez did not precipitate the crime, he said, and it occurred in the heat of passion.

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“I don’t believe and the investigating officers don’t think that Mr. Angel Rodriguez intended to kill anybody,” Ellison said. He said the father’s claim that ethnicity played a role in the decision did not deserve a response.

Richard Rodriguez Jr. said he was satisfied with the sentence. Angel Rodriguez will be eligible for parole in four years.

Before pronouncing sentence, McGrath also heard from the victim’s grandfather, Richard Rodriguez Sr. Donning a green beret, the grandfather said the victim wanted to join the Army and hoped to be accepted by the Green Berets.

He then presented the judge with two photos.

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One was a portrait of the victim. The other was a snapshot of the victim’s daughter, Rebecca Rodriguez, born Monday.


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