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September 28, 2022

Watsonville homicide victim was striving to ‘clean up’ life, mother says

No arrests made after man killed in downtown shooting

WATSONVILLE—The Watsonville man who was shot and killed Sunday afternoon in downtown was working to turn his life around, his mother said.

On Wednesday, at a large makeshift altar at the site of where her son died, Roxanne Ortiz said Adrian Ayala, 19, was one of her two sons.

“He was making efforts to clean up his life and make positive changes,” she said as she tidied up the altar and set out fresh flowers.

Watsonville Police Sgt. Jarrod Pisturino said the shooting took place around 11:20am on the 100 block of Brennan Street. Police cordoned off a huge slice of downtown from foot or motor traffic between East Lake Avenue, East Fifth Street and in front of numerous Brennan Street businesses.

Police combed the parking lot of the Watsonville Woman’s Club, and the adjoining Brennan Medical Center where the victim was found.

A large crowd of people gathered, some sobbing and embracing one another outside the crime scene Sunday that was hemmed in with yellow crime tape. Ortiz, at one point, cried out loud, “My baby, my baby!” A man watching the drama unfold, said, “Someone shot and killed my family member.”

A crime scene investigations van, the Sheriff’s Coroner van, scores of patrol cars and around a dozen law officials filled a broad staging area in the center of Brennan Street.

Ortiz said her son had been working out and playing basketball with friends at the nearby YMCA and that he was chased by several youths as he left the YMCA.

About four hours into their investigation, Watsonville Police continued to comb the crime scene where they collected evidence. They also retrieved at least four bullets that traveled through the front wall of Salon Hair We Are at 21 Brennan St., that same complex that houses The Pajaronian. 

Ortiz added that her son had recently been baptized, was attending church and had recently got a job at UPS, where he just received his first paycheck.

“People can make mistakes, but they can also turn their life around,” she said. “That is what he was doing: Trying to become a better person.”

The investigation is ongoing. No arrests have been made.

Tarmo Hannula
Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


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