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Lompoc Police nab shooting suspect, explain how gang culture possibly played a role in homicide

A tearful plea from a Lompoc mother as police make an arrest in connection to a deadly weekend shooting that left a teenager dead and two others hurt.

Lompoc Police confirm that this is a gang-related homicide and that is the motivation behind the killing.

One of the three men accused of pulling the trigger now faces charges like homicide and participating in a criminal street gang.

“There was an exchange of words that was gang-affiliated prior to the shooting when police arrived they noticed the victim in very bad shape and clinging to life,” said Sgt. Agustin Arias, Lompoc Police Department.

“My son is [right now] in a funeral home,” said Erik Villa Vargas’ mother at Lompoc’s Public Safety Commission Meeting Wednesday night.

Clutching a collage of her slain son, Vargas’s mother says her 15-year-old was the victim of the gangs.

“They just murdered him,” she said, making her hand into the shape of a pistol and raising it to her head.

Lompoc Police Sgt. Agustin Arias says the city’s 7th homicide of the year makes no sense to him but that’s the culture of gang life. “There’s a recruitment process. There’s also a training process in these gangs,” he explains.

Four days of witness contacts, collecting evidence and gaining access to surveillance footage lead detectives to 25-year-old parolee Raymond Ramon Vega.

“Vega has a long history and he’s 25 years old, he’s an active gang member and this might of been one of those deals where you bring younger gang members with you that’s why they targeted a younger juvenile that’s in a different neighborhood of a rival gang,” said Arias.

As Vargas’ mother begs for a safer Lompoc, Arias validates the community’s growing concern.

“They have reason to be concerned in the last month we’ve had two homicides that didn’t have to happen and they’re senseless violence and it’s unfortunately, it’s gang-affiliated,” said Sgt. Arias.

Arias says he and his colleagues are committed to closing cases and making Lompoc a better place but with no gang enforcement unit due to staffing levels, he says police are in a situation they warned officials about years ago.

“By putting us on a hiring freeze you’re reducing the fact that we cannot hire officers at that time and now we’re in a pinch, we’re in a rush and we have all this crime that’s happening and unfortunately that’s because of decisions made by other people. Not by people inside the Lompoc Police Department,” said Arias.

Officials say they are trying to get their numbers up and make some hires.

This is still an active investigation and detectives are working to identify those two other suspects that injured two additional victims.

If you have any information you can provide an anonymous tip.

KEYT 2019

Article Topic Follows: Crime & Courts

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