It’s more than apparent that the wounds are still fresh almost two years after the police shooting death of Alfonso Limon Jr. in Oxnard’s La Colonia neighborhood. With the recent revelation of the Ventura County District Attorney’s investigation into Limon’s death, the grief and anger are almost palpable. With approximately a couple of dozen protestors making rounds from the Ventura County Government Center to downtown Oxnard the day of and the day after the district attorney’s press conference last week, their signs that read “No Justice, No Peace” continue to resonate with those who feel victimized by police, those who were close to Limon, those who lost their sibling, their son. And they are right. There is no justice, no peace, but their target may be slightly off.
Understandably, police corruption and brutality demand civil unrest, but in the case of Limon, though the grief is deep, and though the police did mistake an innocent bystander for a suspect, it wasn’t the police who took certain liberties to start a gun fight. It was a 24-year-old parolee, Jose Zepeda, a wanted man, a man who was clearly preparing to kill someone, perhaps in La Colonia neighborhood, before the shootout began with the cops. Armed with loaded guns and wearing a latex glove to prevent leaving fingerprints, Zepeda is the culprit. He is the one who created the dynamic that led to Limon’s death. And somehow, for some reason, no one is furious that this man, who died that night, will never be punished for his crimes, that there will be no justice for his actions that put so many people in danger. It’s truly heartbreaking that his misery is over while so much of it lingers with those affected that night.
While we have confidence that Oxnard Police Chief Jeri Williams will stick to her word, that she will make appropriate changes to her department if necessary to avoid such tragic situations in the future, that the new body cameras as well as audio cameras the police will have to wear as part of the settlement of the Limon family’s wrongful death suit will serve as reliable witnesses, the real issue at hand is stopping people like Zepeda from committing such horrendous acts. As we invest in tools that make police more culpable for their actions, let’s also start investing in ways to stop the violence, to shut down the gangs, to create more opportunities in areas where gangs thrive.
If there was one thing that could have been done differently, it was on the day that Zepeda decided joining a gang was in his best interest. If only we could turn back the clock and Zepeda instead chose a different path. So as the Limon family heals — which undoubtedly will be a longtime coming, if ever — and as Oxnard residents try to make sense of all this, we hope the focus, the energy and resources can be directed toward the long-term goal of prevention and creating more opportunities for the youngsters living in districts known for gang activity. It’s unfair to keep placing all the blame on those who are paid to serve and protect, especially when those same people were defending themselves against one man whose sole purpose appeared to be murdering innocent victims.