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Suspect Calls Fatal Shooting a ‘Mistake’ : Crime: A gang member said he was only trying to scare a Westminster woman by firing a gun ‘up in the air’ during an attempt to steal her car.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A gang member suspected of murdering a Westminster woman admitted Wednesday that he had a gun and fired it on the night of the killing but insisted that the school aide’s death was “a mistake.”

In a jailhouse interview, 18-year-old Enrique Morales Segoviano said he merely “tried to shoot up in the air to scare her” as he and fellow gang members attempted to steal the woman’s car as she was driving past Bowling Green Park in Westminster about 11 p.m. Sunday.

“The bullet just went off,” he said, shaking his head.

Janet L. Bicknell, 49, who worked as a playground supervisor at a Huntington Beach school, was fatally shot in the head inside her car while returning home with hamburger meat from the grocery store.

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Segoviano, an occasional construction worker who has been in Juvenile Hall several times for drug problems, said repeatedly during the course of a half-hour interview that he could not remember key details of the episode.

Asked about specific points, the young man often shrugged his shoulders and stared down into the visitor’s cubicle at the men’s jail. But he was adamant about one thing.

“We were not planning to kill the lady. It was a mistake. We didn’t go in there to kill the lady,” Segoviano said. “It was not intentional. It just happened.”

But authorities tell a different story, describing Segoviano and his friends as “street terrorists.”

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In past police interviews and court filings, authorities have alleged that the gang members, while hanging out at Bowling Green Park, decided to steal the next car that passed by. But Bicknell refused to stop, so she was shot, authorities say.

Segoviano faces life imprisonment without parole if convicted of murder, “street terrorism” and other charges in the killing, and prosecutors may still decide to seek the death penalty against him.

Two other young men allegedly at the murder scene--both, like Segoviano, members of Santa Ana’s 5th Street gang--face lesser charges that could keep them in jail from three to seven years. All three are to reappear in court today to face charges, but their arraignment will likely be postponed for a second time until later in the month.

Two unnamed juveniles also are in custody, including a 16-year-old who prosecutors say may be tried as an adult for murder. But it is Segoviano that the district attorney’s office has alleged was the gunman and was most culpable in the seemingly random killing.

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Neither the deputy public defender who will be representing Segoviano nor Deputy Dist. Atty. John Anderson, who is prosecuting the case, could be reached for comment on Segoviano’s version of events.

Officer Robin Kapp, a spokesman for the Westminster Police Department, said: “We’re not going to confirm any statements. We won’t say anything about this other than what we’ve said in the past.”

Aside from the central point of whether he shot Bicknell, Segoviano disputed few of the details provided by authorities on a crime that has rocked the Bowling Green neighborhood.

As they sometimes did, Segoviano said, he and some other 5th Streeters were hanging out at the park late last Sunday night, “just talking” and drinking “a couple of beers.” Other gang members also were spraying graffiti in the area, he acknowledged.

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Segoviano said he had been “hanging” with the gang only for the last year or so, after his release from Juvenile Hall. Asked why he was with the gang, he said: “I guess ‘cause I grew up with them . . . (but) I hardly hung around with them.”

He said he does not remember how or when, but on the night of the killing someone decided to try to steal a car. He did not say how the gang members attempted to stop Bicknell’s Toyota, but said “I was not ever near the car.”

Segoviano said he does not know where he got the gun or how many times it went off--but he did fire it. He was only trying to “scare” Bicknell so she would stop, he said.

After the shooting, the gang member did not realize that the woman had been killed or even injured, he said. Asked what he thought upon seeing the school aide slumped over her steering wheel, Segoviano said: “We didn’t know she was dead, you know. We thought she was just, you know, scared.”

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A 10th-grade dropout, Segoviano said he had been working for his brother-in-law in construction and hoped to make some money and “get a good life.” Now he is not sure what will happen to him.

“I’m nervous. I don’t know, man,” he said. “I think I didn’t do all this. But I don’t know nothing.”


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