An early morning confrontation at an Oxnard liquor store early Wednesday apparently sparked a high-speed chase that ended when one car crashed into another, critically wounding one man and hospitalizing his father, authorities said.
Isaac Rodriguez, 19, of Oxnard was the most seriously injured in the collision that occurred on Channel Islands Boulevard at Bolker Drive around 2:10 a.m. He was in critical condition at Ventura County Medical Center late Wednesday with a head wound and other injuries, officials said.
Rodriguez’s father, Peter Rodriguez, 41, a passenger in the car, was listed in serious condition at St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Oxnard.
A Monte Carlo driven by Isaac Rodriguez rammed a Honda Accord driven by 19-year-old Brian Gerardo of Port Hueneme. Rodriguez and his father were ejected when the car flipped over.
Two male passengers in Gerardo’s car were also treated for minor injuries at St. John’s. Police did not release the names of the passengers, ages 15 and 19.
Police suspect the incident began with a verbal confrontation between the Rodriguezes and Gerardo’s passengers in the parking lot of the Liquor Cellar at 150 W. Channel Islands Blvd.
Detectives suspect the exchange of words may have been gang-related, based on the account given by Gerardo’s passengers, Oxnard police spokesman David Keith said.
After the exchange, Gerardo said he pulled out of the parking lot and noticed the Monte Carlo following him as he began to speed up.
“The next thing you know, they started chasing us, bumping us around, trying to make us crash,” he said during a telephone interview. He denied being involved with a gang.
Gerardo said he was trying to outrun the other car and protect his car, which he has customized with about $3,000 worth of chrome trim and accessories.
After a mile and a half, the Monte Carlo rammed the Honda Accord and both cars spun out of control. The Monte Carlo flipped over, landing on its roof. The Honda veered toward a flood control channel, but hit an object and careened into the parking lot of a strip shopping center.
Gerardo said he and his passengers immediately jumped out of the car and ran, thinking the Rodriguezes would come after them. But when they didn’t, the three returned to the scene.
Police said they are still trying to determine who was at fault.
Keith said investigators have not determined whether Isaac Rodriguez intentionally rammed Gerardo’s car or clipped it as he was trying to pass.
“If indeed it was intentional, then we have an attempted murder,” he added.
Several witnesses told detectives that the Monte Carlo was following the Honda, police said. But so far, investigators said they have found no evidence that Gerardo’s car was rammed more than once.
Investigators shut down the westbound lanes of Channel Islands between Ventura and Patterson roads until 10 a.m. Wednesday while they collected evidence to help them reconstruct the crash.
The closure forced some merchants to open their businesses later than normal.
“It was a real jungle getting to work around all the taped-off and roped-off areas,” said Gerry Northfield, owner of Channel Islands Florist.