A 32-year-old janitor died early Friday, three days after he was shot while waiting at a stop sign in a case that continues to baffle Ventura police.
Police and family members said John Edward Rios Jr. did not appear to have personal or business problems that might have prompted his slaying.
“There is no motive,” said Melissa Rios, his younger sister. “He had no enemies. I don’t understand why this happened.”
Rios, who had been in a coma since the shooting, was taken off life support and pronounced dead at 5:50 a.m. Friday at Ventura County Medical Center, authorities said.
Relatives and neighbors said they were shocked at Rios’ death, and described him as an easygoing, reserved man who loved to fish at the Ventura Pier and play video games. He lived with his parents, Victoria and John Rios, and had worked as a janitor for the family-owned cleaning service since he was 15 years old.
Rios was shot about 100 yards from the family business, JR Janitorial Services on Callens Road, as he and a co-worker sat in the company van. They had just finished cleaning the nearby American Red Cross office, police said.
As Rios braked for a stop sign at Callens and Market Street, a man wearing dark clothing and a ski mask walked across the street in front of the van, police said. When the masked man was close to the driver’s side, he pulled out a handgun and fired at Rios through the window. The co-worker, sitting in the passenger seat, was not hurt, police said.
The gunman fled as Rios, badly wounded in the head and left shoulder, drove across the intersection before crashing into a bus bench and mailbox.
Investigators said they have no clues about what may have led to Rios’ killing.
“It’s really kind of baffling,” Ventura Sgt. Bob Anderson said. “We’re exploring every possibility.”
Anderson said he suspects the attack was premeditated.
“The circumstances point to someone knowing him,” he said. “Their itinerary is very predictable. They’re there every Tuesday night. The gunman shot at the driver, not the passenger.”
On Friday, as news of Rios’ death spread around Callens Road, those who knew him were convinced the shooting was random.
“He doesn’t have an enemy in the world,” said Scott Reed, who works at California Electric Supply, just down the street from JR Janitorial. “He was easygoing. He worked, he came home, he fished occasionally. But he didn’t go out a lot.”
Bill Turley, a mechanic who runs an auto shop across from the garage where JR Janitorial is based, said he has known the Rios family for 12 years. He repaired the slain man’s car many times and said Rios didn’t seem like the type to be in trouble.
“He was always up,” Turley said. “He never seemed depressed.”
Melissa Rios said she thinks her brother was the victim of a bizarre, random shooting.
“He was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” she said.
Melissa described her older brother as a “homebody” who enjoyed living with their parents and was happy with his life. He was a Ventura native who had dropped out of Buena High School in 10th grade to join the family janitorial service.
“He liked what he was doing. He didn’t have anyone breathing over his shoulder all the time,” she said.
She said Rios had no long-term plans and “lived his days day by day.”
As their father grew older, Rios helped out more with the family business, she said.
“Nobody ever saw him in a bad mood,” Melissa Rios said. “He was very, very friendly, never rude, never mean.”
Lynne Garrety, a neighbor who knew Rios for 10 years, said his favorite hobby was fishing.
“He brought over fish he had caught,” she said.
Rios was a helpful and trustworthy neighbor, she said. Sometimes he would pick up and bring Garrety’s 10-year-old daughter to school. He was the type of person you could count on for help if, for example, your car broke down, she said.
“None of us can understand what happened,” Garrety said.
Also surviving are a sister, Michelle, and brother, Steven. A memorial service is scheduled for 7 tonight at the Joseph P. Reardon Funeral Chapel in Ventura.