A 21-year-old man was shot and killed and two brothers stabbed, in what Ventura County authorities said Friday was the deadliest incident this year involving warring gangs in the small agricultural community of Fillmore.
Peter Nicholas Serrano, a Fillmore High School graduate and local gang member, was shot in the chest shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday as he was standing in the open carport area at his family's El Paseo Street home in west Fillmore, authorities said.
"He was my son and I supported him," Jose Angel Serrano, the victim's grieving father, said Friday as he stood on his lawn clutching a photo of his son.
Authorities were investigating the strong possibility that Serrano's killing was in retaliation for the stabbings of rival gang members Mark and Alfred Chaveste.
A group of men attacked the Chavestes at a Taco Bell parking lot in west Fillmore about 30 minutes before Serrano was shot, authorities said. Mark Chaveste, 22, and Alfred Chaveste, 24, were treated for minor wounds at a Santa Paula hospital and released.
Detectives, who said they were getting little cooperation from victims or witnesses, were struggling to determine if Serrano was involved in the stabbings or targeted because of his documented gang membership.
Ventura County Sheriff's Capt. Randy Pentis, the city's designated police chief, said gang violence was on the rise in Fillmore and in cities across the county.
"The problem has really been escalating for about the last six months," Pentis said of Fillmore's gang war.
The killing Thursday was the first gang-related slaying in Fillmore this year. On Oct. 12, a 15-year-old Santa Paula youth was shot and killed at a large party held between Fillmore and Santa Paula that had been attended by dozens of Fillmore gang members. The victim, Samuel Travis Reeves, was not a gang member.
There have been two killings in Fillmore this year and 43 countywide -- nearly double the number in 2002.
According to Pentis, the ongoing gang violence prompted sheriff's officials to recently assign a full-time deputy to the small Fillmore station to focus on gang crime -- a first for the city's 40-person force.
In Thursday's incident, the Chavestes told deputies they had driven to the Taco Bell on Ventura Street to buy food, when they were approached and attacked about 7:40 p.m. by several men who fled in a green compact car.
The brothers then went to a home on nearby Saratoga Street, where they called deputies and waited for an ambulance to take them to the hospital.
At 8:08 p.m., deputies received the call about Serrano's shooting. The shooter, authorities said, walked up to Serrano outside his parents' home and shot him once before running away. No car was seen, authorities said.