An 11-month investigation has led to two gang members being charged with murder in connection with the shooting death of a Lompoc teenager early this year, Lompoc police announced Tuesday.
Police Chief Tim Dabney confirmed during a press conference that Kevin Sullivan Jr., 20, and Ricardo Reyes, 19, both of Lompoc, are suspected of killing 14-year-old Danny Rodriguez in January.
Both are known members of a Lompoc street gang, Westside VLP, Dabney said.
“Me and my family are very happy the arrests have been made, and that justice can now be served,” Olga Rodriguez, Daniel’s
31-year-old sister, said during the press conference.
Rodriguez described her brother, the next to youngest of seven siblings, as “always smiling.”
A tearful Rodriguez said her family was sad that “the people who did this didn’t know the kind of life they took.”
Sullivan had been identified early on as a person of interest in the case, and his residence, along with nine other locations linked to Westside members, was targeted in search warrants issued by investigators the week following the shooting.
As a result of the search, police confiscated a handgun, a sawed-off shotgun and a rifle. Sullivan was charged with cultivation of marijuana, child endangerment, possession of illegal firearms, and gang-related activity.
Sullivan is serving a five-year sentence in state prison related to the weapons charge.
Reyes was arrested in August for unrelated incidents of vandalism and a probation violation.
Police Capt. Larry Ralston said good police work helped link Reyes’ stop into a local emergency room for a cut on his hand to a recent incident of vandalism in the same area. He is in custody in Santa Barbara County Jail, according to Ralston.
Interviews and evidence evaluated at a state crime lab helped detectives build the case against the suspects, according to a statement read by Dabney.
Daniel was walking with a group of kids through an alley off the 700 block of North E Street late in the afternoon Jan. 14, Dabney said.
“Gang members fired into this crowd of kids and Daniel was hit,” Ralston said.
Police found the teen bleeding in the alleyway, suffering from a bullet wound to the torso from a .22 caliber firearm. He was taken to Lompoc Valley Medical Center for treatment, but the Vandenberg Middle School student died two days later from his injuries.
“Before Daniel succumbed to his wounds, he provided critical information to officers regarding his assailants,” Dabney said.
Daniel’s death triggered another shooting. The day he died, friends and family gathered at a home in the 900 block of East Airport Avenue to hold a vigil.
According to Lompoc police, a car being driven by documented Westside VLP gang member Daniel David Lopez, 21, drove past the residence and entered into a verbal argument with some of the partygoers.
He drove off, but returned later that evening, and fired a handgun into the crowded backyard, striking one man in the leg, before fleeing.
The wounded 19-year-old man was treated and released from Lompoc Valley Medical Center.
Lopez is facing an attempted-murder charge in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.
Investigation of the Daniel Rodriguez case is continuing, and anyone who may have witnessed anything related to the shooting is encouraged to contact the Lompoc Police Department at 736-2341.