OCEANSIDE — Joe Balderrama Park was quieter than usual this past Sunday, as Eastside neighborhood residents arrived with bunches of flowers and paid their respects to a young shooting victim who lost her life early Saturday.
Police say the 15-year-old girl was targeted and shot on Sept. 3, at about 2:30 a.m., while on the playground jungle gym.
The victim died of at least one gunshot wound. Lifesaving measures were performed by police, but the girl died at the scene.
Few details of the crime, or scene are being released.
It is known by police following the incident that the 15-year-old sometimes slept in the park on the jungle gym. It is also know she was not alone when she was shot.
Lt. Taurino Valdovinos, who is in charge of city community policing, said while there are incidents of drinking and marijuana smoking at Joe Balderrama Park, the park has not seen other recent violent crimes.
Police are withholding the victim’s name as of Sept. 4, until all family members are notified.
Ryan Keim, Oceanside Police public information officer, said the department is focusing on gaining as much information as possible about the incident.
“We believe there were witnesses present,” Keim said.
He added any small piece of information could be helpful. It is often the sum of information from numerous witnesses that sheds light on the incident.
“One thing, one car could be important,” Keim said. “We need all the information we can get to solve this. It’s really important to get any tips for this, as insignificant as they may sound, they may be important.”
About 30 police officers responded and secured the crime scene throughout the first day. On site police operations closed down about 3 p.m. Saturday.
That evening residents gathered in prayer around the jungle gym.
By Sunday afternoon religious candles circled the playground structure, and flowers and photographs adorned it. Residents continued to add flowers, visit and reflect.
Friends and neighbors who gathered on Sunday did not wish to give their names, but did share memories of the young girl, who they described as friendly and strong.
“She was a beautiful, sweet girl taken in her prime,” a young man said.
One friend said she was independent and chose to “live” in the park at night, although she had a family and home. A blanket was left in her memory among the flowers, rosaries and photos.
“She choose to make this her home,” a young woman said.
Photos showed her contagious, bright smile that remained the same over the years.
“I’ll never forget her smile and her laugh,” another young man said. “Her smile showed her true self.”
Police are continuing the investigation. As of Sept. 4, no suspects have been arrested.
Anyone with any information is encouraged to call Oceanside Police at (760) 435-4911.
This story has been corrected since its original posting.