1 Slain, 1 Wounded in Shooting at Santa Paula Family Barbecue

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Santa Paula laborer was shot and killed and his cousin was seriously wounded by a man who came after them during a family barbecue Sunday afternoon, police said.

Javier Garcia, 27, was pronounced dead at Teague Park in Santa Paula at 4:42 p.m., said Jim Wingate, a Ventura County coroner's investigator.

Garcia's cousin, Jose Tellez Vasquez, 32, was taken to Santa Paula Memorial Hospital and transferred to Ventura County Medical Center. He was listed in stable condition Sunday evening.

Garcia, who worked for Becerra Farming Services of Camarillo, is survived by his brother, Juvenal Tellez, Wingate said. Their parents live in Mexico.

Authorities were still searching for the shooter Sunday evening.

"We fear he may be going to Mexico," said Santa Paula Police Cmdr. Bob Gonzales. Police enlisted a Sheriff's Department helicopter to scour the area for the man shortly after the fatal shooting. They also have notified the Border Patrol of the fleeing man, whom authorities believe escaped down the Santa Clara River bed.

Police said the shooting--the first homicide in Santa Paula this year--was not gang-related and did not appear to be connected to drugs. They said they had discovered no other possible motives Sunday night.

However, they said there was little doubt that the shooter came looking for the cousins, who had been enjoying a picnic of beer, chips and barbecued chicken on a grassy knoll between two trees in the park. They were joined by about eight other friends and relatives, Gonzales said.

Vasquez was walking out of the public restroom at the park on Santa Anna Street when he was confronted by the suspect, who shot him twice and left him lying in the parking lot, Gonzales said.

The shooter then approached the group, gun in hand.

Garcia saw him and took off, Gonzales said. But Garcia ran only 40 yards across the grass before he was felled by shots fired from a distance, Gonzales said. Police are unsure how many times he was shot, Gonzales said.

While most of the people in the park scattered, some area residents rushed to aid Vasquez, who had stopped breathing. They managed to resuscitate him and keep him breathing until an ambulance arrived.

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