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5 Arrested in Drive-By Shooting at ‘Rave’ Party

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Five suspected gang members were being held at Juvenile Hall on Saturday after they allegedly fired shots outside a downtown Ventura theater where more than 100 people were waiting to attend a dance party.

No one was hurt by the gunfire, which occurred about 9:10 p.m. Friday outside the Mayfair Theatre at Santa Clara and Ash streets, Ventura police said. The theater, in a residential area at the eastern edge of downtown, was the site of a “rave,” or dance party, that eventually attracted about 450 people, promoters said.

Several members of a gang from the La Colonia neighborhood of Oxnard were standing in line when members of the Ventura Avenue Gangsters drove by in a gray Toyota 4-Runner wagon and fired four or five rounds from a semiautomatic pistol, police said.

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Ventura Police Sgt. Carl Handy said the Ventura teen-agers had been part of the crowd but left after exchanging gang signs with the Oxnard gang members. “Some kids are pretty territorial,” Handy said, adding that the Ventura youths resented the presence of the Oxnard gang members on their turf.

About 90 minutes later, a firefighter at Station 1 on Ventura Avenue reported shots fired by a passenger in a similar vehicle, police said. No one was hurt.

Shortly afterward, Ventura Police Officer Dave Wilson was parked on the southbound Ventura Freeway on-ramp from Seaward Avenue when he saw a vehicle matching the Toyota’s description heading south. Wilson gave chase and was joined by other police vehicles, but the driver of the fleeing car refused to stop after pulling off the freeway at Victoria Avenue, police said.

The pursuit continued west on Valentine Road and eventually east on Telephone Road to an area of offices and apartments near the Ventura County Government Center. At Hill Road and Webster Street, the Toyota made a U-turn and rammed a police car, police said. Then another police car rammed the Toyota, causing a tire to go flat.

The Toyota continued a short distance until the flat tire forced the five occupants to abandon it. Officers chased them on foot and arrested the suspects at gunpoint, police said, adding that a .25-caliber semiautomatic pistol was seized.

Handy said the youths admitted the shootings at both locations.

No one was injured in the collisions or foot chase, Handy said.

Police said the five suspects were 15 or 16 years old and all were gang members or associates. Their names were not disclosed because they are juveniles.

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The youths were being held on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, shooting at an inhabited building, evading and resisting arrest, possession of a loaded firearm and auto theft. The vehicle had been reported stolen from a Ventura dealership a few nights earlier, police said.

The dance party, titled “Berzerk,” featured six deejays and had been publicized in multicolored flyers inviting people to “let your minds go crazy to the sounds of the hard-core underground scene.”

It was the third rave in recent weeks to be staged at the Mayfair, according to a representative of West Coast Entertainment, the Los Angeles-based promotion company that sponsored the dance parties.

And because of the shooting, it will be the last, West Coast official Alexander Luca said Saturday.

“This is the last time we’re going to use that theater,” Luca said. “Once an incident like that takes place, we don’t want any part of it.”

Luca said security guards were patrolling the theater and said there was no trouble inside.

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Tom Bell, who lives across from the Mayfair on Ash Street, said he heard five or six shots Friday night, followed by screaming. Bell said he has frequently been awakened by noisy patrons since the theater began having the dance parties as well as live concerts several nights a week, some lasting past 3 a.m.

On Saturday morning, Bell said, his front yard was littered with empty bottles of beer, bourbon and Scotch apparently discarded by party-goers. The day before, he said, he found a small knife.

In the 14 years he has lived in the neighborhood, Bell said, the Mayfair has been a traditional movie house, an adult theater, and an art film venue. “Now it’s come to this,” Bell said. “This is the worst.”

Representatives of the theater, which is owned by a trust, could not be reached for comment Saturday. A telephone answering machine said 10 concerts are scheduled during the rest of this month, including one Saturday night.

Since June, the theater also has housed the Insomniac Coffeehouse, which sometimes features poetry readings and live theater. Don Edwards, who lives next door to the theater, said gang fights and other problems began when the Insomniac moved in.

“They just can’t provide enough security,” Edwards said. “It gets out of control.”

Representatives of the Insomniac could not be reached for comment Saturday. Ventura police have commended the coffeehouse as a place where teen-agers can congregate and alcohol is not served.

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In October, the Ventura Planning Commission granted the Insomniac a one-year operating permit, with requirements that the business provide security, discourage loitering and clean up trash in the area.

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