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Shooting rocks Oak View

May 16, 2002

Paul Clinton

Bouquets of yellow and pink flowers are clustered along the brick wall

at Nichols Street and Wagon Drive. Colored candles with religious images

form a cross on the sidewalk.

Families and friends of Oscar Gaytan, 18, and Heriberto Tapia Vasquez,

16, two Huntington Beach boys killed in a gangland shooting Saturday,

have blanketed the sidewalks where their loved ones perished. Flowers,

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candles and framed pictures of the fallen teenagers now act as a reminder

of the heartbreak and trauma that inevitably follows street violence.

A second memorial cropped up on a strip of sidewalk on Jacquelyn Lane,

where Vasquez fell.

The memorials popped up on Saturday, following the tragic shootings in

the Oak View neighborhood over the weekend.

Police are in the midst of an intensive investigation into the deaths,

which are thought to be gang-related. No suspects have been arrested.

Gaytan and Vasquez were both fatally shot early Saturday morning as

they walked along Nichols.

While Gaytan died at the scene, Vasquez crawled down the street toward

a relative's house, where he collapsed. Both boys were shot in the upper

torso.

The killings broke the city's nearly three-year streak without a

homicide. They were the first since the murder of Bridgette Ballas, a

29-year-old Calvin Klein account executive who was found raped and

bludgeoned to death on Nov. 27, 1999. Police arrested 23-year-old Victor

Miranda-Guerrero for that crime.

Saturday's vicious double homicide deeply saddened city leaders who

said they have strived to make this city a safe place.

Councilwoman Shirley Dettloff said she has worked to implement

after-school programs in the Oak View neighborhood to provide activities

for idle teens.

"We've made a real concerted effort to work with that community,"

Dettloff said. "It's very disturbing."

Seething with equal parts rage and grief, Gaytan's 14-year-old brother

remembered Oscar's trademark sense of humor.

"He wasn't a bad person," Danny Gaytan said. "He was a nice person. He

used to tease people. He was funny."

However, both boys, who were close friends, were also known for their

brushes with police.

Gaytan, the father of a 5-month-old son, Ivan, had been released from

juvenile hall earlier this year.

School administrators at Ocean View High School remembered Gaytan as a

student who had little success in the classroom. In fact, he was

constantly absent, Assistant Principal Paul Sevillano said.

"Mr. Gaytan never attended our school regularly," Sevillano said. "He

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