An Oxnard man has been convicted of first-degree murder in a gang-related shooting a year ago in south Oxnard.
A jury found Jason Armenta, 21, guilty of murder and attempted murder on Tuesday in Ventura County Superior Court. Jurors also found true special enhancements: that the crimes were committed to benefit the Squires Drive criminal street gang and that Armenta had used a criminal while carrying them out, according to the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office.
The shooting took place shortly before 7 pm on April 4, 2021 — Easter Sunday — in the 600 block of Howell Road, near the intersection with Squires Drive. The site is in the Cypress neighborhood south of Pleasant Valley Road.
The victim, Cristobal Gonzalez, 20, of Oxnard, was found by police with a single bullet wound to the back of the head.
Following an Oxnard Police Department investigation, which coordinated cell phone records with a series of surveillance cameras, detectives were able to track Armenta to the scene of the crime and match his vehicle to the shooting.
Armenta had been patrolling Squires Drive gang territory to target perceived Southside gang rivals, according to prosecutors. Video and cell phone records showed he targeted Gonzalez and another male.
Armenta fired 15 rounds from a semi-automatic shot, once hitting Gonzalez in the head, prosecutors said. Gonzalez’s companion was not struck.
Several other shooting incidents in south Oxnard in the days following the homicide led to arrests and prompted city officials, including police Chief Jason Benites, to walk through the Cypress neighborhood and reach out to residents. Officers later went door-to-door, introducing themselves and handing out business cards.
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“The Oxnard Police Department did an excellent job of investigating this case,” said Senior Deputy DA Melissa Suttner, who led the prosecution. “We are grateful for the jury’s thoughtful analysis in this case.”
Armenta’s defense attorney, Martin Zaehringer, spoke on his behalf.
“Mr. Armenta had no prior criminal history, was not known to be associated with any street gang prior to this shooting and no one identified him as being the shooter,” Zaehringer said. “He continues to maintain his innocence.”
Sentencing is set for 8:30 am May 24 in courtroom 47. Armenta faces life in prison with the possibility of parole, according to the DA’s office.
Victoria Talbot is a court and breaking news reporter with The Star. Reach her at email@example.com or 805-437-0258.