Teenager Fatally Shot Outside Mall in Oxnard
A teenage boy died of a gunshot wound Thursday inside a shopping center after an apparent gang-related confrontation mere yards from an Oxnard police substation.
Investigators said Felipe Hernandez was shot in the upper chest just outside the Centerpoint Mall on Channel Islands Boulevard about 1:30 p.m. Witnesses told police the mortally wounded teen was dragged inside the mall by two friends, whom police declined to identify.
“He died in my arms,” said a tearful and visibly shaken mall security guard who declined to give her name. “There was too much blood to start CPR. I just want to forget about this day.”
One shopper, Benny Garcia, said most shoppers were apparently unaware someone had been shot until they saw a large pool of blood and frantic security guards working over the victim.
“It sounded like a balloon popping, which isn’t too unusual for a mall, " said Garcia, who frequents the south Oxnard mall several times a month. “This is scary.”
Police said Hernandez and two of his friends got into an argument with three other youths inside the shopping center. The dispute spilled outside where Hernandez was shot in a breezeway next to Mervyn’s Department store, and the killer and his cohorts fled on foot across the parking lot toward C Street, Sgt. Cliff Troy said.
Deputy Coroner Dale Zintas said Hernandez moved eight months ago from his parents’ home in Mexico to an uncle’s house in Oxnard. Investigators believe Hernandez is 16 years old, but said family members in Oxnard are unsure of his date of birth.
“We’re trying to reach his parents in Mexico to confirm his age,” Troy said.
Troy said police are investigating the shooting as gang related because of the age of the young men and the obscenities exchanged between them before the shooting.
Det. Bernie Schmalhofer said the victim’s two friends were cooperating with investigators, but no arrests had been made by late Thursday.
Hernandez died in front of Mervyn’s Department Store and near the food court, where a dozen on-lookers licked ice-cream cones and sipped sodas as they peered across the police barricade hastily erected in front of Miller’s Outpost.
Mervyn’s management closed the door that opens into the mall and covered the large picture windows with white sheets as shoppers inside the store went about their business.
“This is so weird, there’s a dead man a few feet from here and everybody is still shopping,” said Lupe Hernandez, who was looking for clothes at the time of the shooting.
Most of the stores in the mall remained open as coroner officials and detectives examined the body.
The shopping center has been the site of several gang-related incidents in the past, including a stabbing four years ago. But Oxnard police said the presence of the substation has helped prevent gang activity there. “The mall has their own security and that helps,” Cmdr. Bob Elder said. “There isn’t any more crime than normal there.”