A first date at the movies. A stranger with a gun. A shocking ‘execution’ leaves 2 dead
They had met at a party a few weeks earlier, and this was their first date.
Rylee Goodrich, a student at Grand Canyon University, was excited enough to curl her long blond hair. Anthony Barajas was a budding social media star.
Dinner was at Wood Ranch, a chain known for its wood-fired barbecue, followed by a movie, “The Forever Purge.”
There were only six people in the theater when the 9:35 p.m. show started — Goodrich, 18, Barajas, 19, and a group of four young men.
Goodrich texted her mother, saying she did not like the movie. It was violent, revolving around a fictitious national holiday where all crimes, including murder, are legal.
Then came real gunfire.
Barajas was shot first, in what police would later call an execution-style attack. Goodrich was next — like Barajas, shot point blank in the head.
Goodrich died at the scene, Barajas days later. A 20-year-old man was arrested in the attack, baffling for its seeming randomness.
Grieving family and friends, along with Barajas’ nearly 1 million TikTok followers, are left wondering how three young lives collided in a darkened movie theater on July 26 in Corona, and whether something could have been done to prevent the tragedy.
The suspect, Joseph Jimenez, didn’t know the couple, and there is no indication he interacted with them before allegedly opening fire.
Jimenez had arrived at the theater with three friends. Court records show those friends left before the shootings because Jimenez was acting strangely and they thought he had a gun. Jimenez later said he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had stopped taking his medication, though officials have not confirmed that.
Malik Earnest, a friend of Barajas, wants to know if anyone was helping Jimenez with his mental health struggles and how he ended up with a gun.
“Who let him down?” Earnest said.
At Corona High, Goodrich was a cheerleader who played volleyball and ran track. She graduated in 2020 from the school’s rigorous STEM program, for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
She did her best to make everyone feel included and was always willing to help others, said Sofia Suzuki, who was mentored by Goodrich at cheerleading camp.
Suzuki described Goodrich as a “bright soul” with a gregarious personality.
“She was always very inspirational, very outgoing,” said Suzuki, now a junior. “Everyone wanted to be her friend.”
Five miles away, Jimenez attended Santiago High, graduating in 2019. School district officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Barajas was a soccer star at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, earning team MVP and all-county honors during his senior season in 2018-19.
Off the field, he was an honors student, sang in the chorus and performed lead roles in school drama productions.
His soccer coach, Sean Ganey, said he was “an exceptional man of character and a true example of what it means to be a servant leader.”
In the last few years, Barajas’ TikTok account took off, as viewers responded to his lip-sync videos, skits with his friends and musings on relationships and heartache.
He sang along soulfully to Justin Bieber and James Arthur and performed his own rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” — always with a big smile.
Barajas often enthused that music was his “first love” and wanted to move to L.A. to write and record music, with the goal of starting a boy band, said his vocal coach, Milton Jackson II.
With a mop of curly dark hair, Barajas looked the part.
“He wasn’t just some kid in his room that’s dreaming, hoping,” said Jackson, who began working with Barajas last summer. “He was out there trying to make it happen.”
Goodrich and Barajas met at a party over Fourth of July weekend. They shared a love of sports, and both were entrepreneurs.
Goodrich, a business marketing major, had an eyelash extension venture on the side. Barajas was making money from his TikTok popularity and was planning to move into an influencer house in L.A.
On a trip to Hawaii, Barajas showed he was thinking about his new love interest, bringing back gifts for her and her family.
Then came their first date — dinner and a movie at Regal Edwards Corona Crossings & RPX in their hometown.
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A fateful night at the movies
On a Monday night, with the COVID-19 pandemic resurging, there was plenty of room in the theater.
A 19-year-old man who had bought four tickets was there with three friends, including Jimenez.
At some point during the movie, Jimenez left and returned with a bag, saying there was a “strap” inside, according to a search warrant obtained by The Times.
His friends concluded that Jimenez had a gun. He was mumbling and talking to himself, which made them uncomfortable, the search warrant said.
They told Jimenez they were going to the bathroom. Instead, they left the theater. Only Goodrich and Barajas remained inside with Jimenez.
Jimenez’s friends were still in the parking lot at about 11:28 p.m. when they saw Jimenez run to his car and speed away.
At about 11:35 p.m., workers discovered Goodrich and Barajas while cleaning the theater after the show.
Goodrich was pronounced dead at the scene. Barajas was rushed to a hospital with multiple projectiles in his brain.
Investigators found three spent shell casings and a projectile in the theater. They tracked down the young man who had bought the four tickets, then zeroed in on Jimenez.
Riverside County sheriff’s deputies who surrounded Jimenez’s home the day after the shootings saw him yelling and waving a handgun, according to the warrant.
Deputies then arrested Jimenez and searched his home — a trailer behind a two-bedroom house on Envoy Avenue in unincorporated El Cerrito.
The weapon he was carrying matched the caliber of slugs left behind in the theater, Corona police said.
Investigators believe it was a “ghost gun,” assembled from parts to be untraceable, allowing buyers to avoid a federal background check, said Corona Det. Jesse Marquez.
In Jimenez’s home, detectives found an illegal drum magazine that enables the shooter to fire numerous shots before reloading, Marquez said.
They found Goodrich’s wallet in his car.
In a mug shot published in numerous news accounts, Jimenez has a shaved head and a short goatee. He is wearing a green T-shirt and staring at the camera with an intense gaze.
The three friends who attended the movie with Jimenez and were named in the search warrant could not be reached for comment.
Jimenez made his first court appearance July 30 in an orange jumpsuit and white mask.
As Jimenez got up to leave the courtroom, Goodrich’s father, David Goodrich, burst out, “Hey, look at me, bro! Look at me, dude,” before breaking into sobs.
Soon after, Barajas was taken off life support.
“I want to thank everyone who lifted Anthony in prayer. The injuries to his brain were irreparable,” his friend Earnest tweeted. “July 30th at 11 p.m., Anthony was wheeled down an ‘honor walk’ where he would ultimately donate his organs so others may live.”
Mourning and questions
The wave of comments on Barajas’ TikTok videos turned from an outpouring of love and support — messages of “you got this” and “keep fighting” and prayers upon prayers — to grieving a young life taken too soon.
A memorial festooned with images of Barajas and Goodrich sprung up in front of the movie theater.
Amid the candles, stuffed toys and flowers were dozens of chalked notes on the pavement.
“Rylee, To my twin, my heart longs for the chance to hold you again. Thank you for the thousands of memories we made together...Lo.” read one.
That Saturday night, hundreds of mourners packed a candlelight vigil.
“I know the biggest thing she would want is just to have everybody together,” Skylar Schueller, a friend of Goodrich, said as she wiped away tears. “I think she’s looking down on us now, and I think she’s smiling.”
Goodrich’s father sobbed, and tears ran down her mother’s cheeks.
“Rylee Ericka Goodrich was my pride and joy. She was so cool, smart, driven, passionate, connected, loyal and beautiful,” her father wrote on social media. “The sky was her limit. She has the same exact personality that I do and she reassured me just a few days ago she would take care of me when I’m old and sick.”
A similar vigil took place at Mater Dei High, Barajas’ alma mater.
In jail on Aug. 4, Jimenez told the Riverside Press-Enterprise that he heard “voices in his head” saying that his friends and family would be killed.
The only way to save them was to shoot the two strangers in the movie theater, Jimenez told the paper.
Jimenez said he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had stopped taking his medication after running out of pills.
He walked up from behind, shooting the man first, he told the paper. The woman “sort of jumped,” and he shot her, then ran out of the theater, his heart beating rapidly.
In the interview, Jimenez said if he could relive that night, he would walk out of the theater and not come back. He offered “condolences” to the victims’ families.
“I wish I didn’t do it,” he told the Press-Enterprise.
In addition to two counts of murder, the charges against Jimenez include a special circumstance of multiple murder and a special circumstance of lying in wait because he sneaked up and attacked the victims.
Jimenez’s arraignment has been postponed until Sept. 27. The schizophrenia he described in the jailhouse interview has not been mentioned in court.
In his final TikTok video, posted from Hawaii on July 22, Barajas panned to each of his family members, who poked fun at one another as they shared a meal.
“Please don’t delete his account,” a fan commented. “I want to continue watching these videos where he sings and where he is happy.”
The account has since been disabled.
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