The mother of Erik Villa Vargas, a 15-year-old shot and killed in Lompoc, speaks to the Public Safety Commission on Wednesday night.
The mother of Erik Villa Vargas, a 15-year-old shot and killed in Lompoc, holds photos of her son while speaking to the Public Safety Commission in 2019. Credit: Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo

A grieving Lompoc mom shared about the senseless loss of her 15-year-old son in a gang-related shooting more than three years ago before seeing his killer sentenced to prison Friday morning in Santa Maria Superior Court

Raymond Ramon Vega, 28, pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges stemming from a triple shooting that killed 15-year-old Erik Villa Vargas.

The teenager was gunned down in an Oct. 12, 2019, incident in the alley behind North F and G streets. Two other people were sent to local hospitals with injuries.

“The whole family was affected by this tragic, senseless, cruel act,” an emotional Elitania Villa said, adding a younger sibling still asks when they will pick up Erik at the cemetery. 

She delivered her vicim impact statement in Spanish before a Victim Witness Assistance Program representative read an English version as Vega turned his head and listened. 

“I don’t call what I’m doing now living but merely surviving,” the mom said, adding she sees her son in other teenagers in the community. “It’s tough to describe the depth of this pain other than there’s nothing left to hurt.”

The triple shooting occurred during a spike in homicides in Lompoc, leading the 15-year-old boy’s grieving mother to plead for safety during a Public Safety Commission meeting.

On Friday, the mom described her son as humble and hard-working, adding he became part of the wrong crowd.

Lompoc police contend that the shootings in F Street gang territory involved rivals from Lompoc’s VLP gang, which Vega is believed to belong to based on tattoos. Before the shooting, one suspect reportedly asked the victims, “Do you bang?”

The mom noted the callous comments of some people make about gang-related homicides. 

“I hear people say, ’It’s good the gang bangers kill each other’ without realizing they all have mothers,” she said. “It really is the mother who suffers here.”

She added she told her son that if he was brave enough to join a gang, he would be brave enough to make his way out of the lifestyle.

She described her son wanting out of the gang and they unsuccessful tried to get a transfer to Cabrillo High School. 

She contended Lompoc failed her son in other ways including by not having anti-gang and anti-bullying programs.

“Erik was a victim many times over and it resulted in the death of a 15-year-old boy,” she added. 

Senior Deputy District Attorney Scott Donahue declined to comment further in court, noting the mother’s powerful statement.

Vega’s attorney Michael Scott also referred to the the mother’s emotional statement and the ongoing senseless deaths stemming from violence and efforts to end the violence.

The defense attorney also agreed with the victim’s mother that “this is a tragedy on all sides.”

In addition to two moms losing sons — one to death and one to prison — the crime left two young children without their fathers, speakers noted.

Scott also said his client planned to write a letter asking for forgiveness for the shooting.  

Earlier this year, Vega changed his plea to guilty for the triple-shooting case weeks before the trial had been set to start. 

In addition to the 25-years-to-life sentence for the triple-shooting, Vega also received an additional four years for a February attack while he was an inmate in the Santa Barbara County Jail.

The sentences will be served consecutively giving Vega a total of 29 years to life behind bars.

Vega pleaded guilty to assault by means likely to cause great bodily injury on Feb. 27, 2023. A second inmate, Rafael Castro Jr., 42, also was charged, and his case continues to make its way through the court system. 

In pleading guilty to the assault, Vega also admitted a second strike under California’s Three Strikes Sentencing Law. His first strike was related to a 2013 case in Ventura County. 

Judge Denise de Bellefeuille told Vega that violence wasn’t the answer and urged him to change while serving his time behind bars.

“It’s in your hands as to what kind of human you’re going to be for the rest of your days,” the judge said.