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Santa Ana family takes to billboards to help in search for young woman’s killer

Watchfire Signs

A Santa Ana woman and her family are continuing their fight to find her daughter’s killer months after the young woman was gunned down last August by suspects who police believe were targeting someone else.

Cars traveling along Bristol Street at West Alton Avenue in Santa Ana pass by a billboard with a photo of Victoria Barrios, 18, of Santa Ana who was fatally shot in August 2019 during a drive-by that police believe was targeting someone else. Her family has put her photo on billboards around Santa Ana and police and relatives have offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to a suspect in her killing. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Victoria Barrios, 18, of Santa Ana was fatally shot in August 2019 during a drive-by that police believe was targeting someone else. Her family has put her photo on billboards around Santa Ana and police and relatives have offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to a suspect in her killing. (Courtesy Barrios Family)

Eva Barrios, left, of Santa Ana, holds a photograph of her daughter, Victoria, as she stands with her father, Felipe Guerrero, in front of a billboard at the intersection of Bristol Street and West Alton Avenue in Santa Ana on Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Victoria Barrios, 18, was fatally shot in August 2019 during a drive-by that police believe was targeting someone else. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Eva Barrios, left, of Santa Ana, holds a photograph of her daughter, Victoria, as she stands with her father, Felipe Guerrero, in front of a billboard at the intersection of Bristol Street and West Alton Avenue in Santa Ana on Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Victoria Barrios, 18, was fatally shot in August 2019 during a drive-by that police believe was targeting someone else. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

After months without resolution, they are now putting up billboard messages across the city with Victoria Barrios’ face and the question:

Who killed my daughter? 

They hope people won’t forget the young woman, in a blue graduation cap and gown on the billboard, who was just 18 when she was killed.

It was just after midnight on Aug. 30 when at least one person fired on Barrios and a 17-year-old boy with her from an open back passenger-side door of a moving SUV. The teens were outside near the intersection of Pine and Hickory streets when they were hit. Police officers found Barrios with a gunshot wound to her upper torso and the male, who was badly wounded but survived.

Police said they think the shooting was gang-related but neither of the teens had any gang affiliations. Soon after the shooting Santa Ana police, civic leaders and relatives made a plea to the public to help find the culprits by releasing surveillance video. They offered a $50,000 reward that is still on the table, said police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna. But so far, no one has been arrested.

The idea of billboards always has been on the mind of Eva Barrios, Victoria’s mother. She had run some advertisements in the Orange County Register but she hadn’t acted on the billboard idea until six months had passed and her daughter’s case remained unsolved.

“We got to that point and I thought we need to ramp things up,” Barrios said. “We needed to do something.”

She said she trusts the process of police investigators but felt like she wanted to do more.

“I want her case to be solved and I don’t want her to be forgotten.”

So she aimed her sights at the billboard operators.

“I started relentlessly calling and emailing these companies.”

Once she explained to them what had happened to her daughter, she discovered that many of them were willing to help.

“They were kind enough to reduce the cost significantly…they’re being very compassionate about my cause,” Barrios said.

By mid-to-late March the first one went up on Bristol Street and Alton Avenue. Then two more on Fairview Street and near the Santa Ana River. A fourth is set to dot the 22 freeway near Bristol Street. If need be, Barrios said, more will follow.

So far Barrios and her family have spent upwards of $16,000 on the billboard advertisements.

“We’re very fortunate that we do have the resources to do that, not everybody does,” Barrios said.

She also started a Facebook group called Justice for Victoria Barrios to further spread her message.

Victoria’s grandfather, Felipe Guerrero, said they plan to go to the neighborhood where the shooting happened and hand out fliers. They’re considering also hiring a private investigator.

The 17-year-old who was wounded on the night of the shooting spoke to police after waking from a coma, Barrios said, but has not been able to tell them much else about what happened.

“We just want to know what happened,”  Guerrero said.

He described his granddaughter as an “old soul in a new body.”

She had recently graduated from Los Amigos High School and was working before likely heading to junior college.

“She talked about possibly (going into) law enforcement or working with troubled youth,” Barrios said of her daughter, who was assertive and wanted to help others.

Barrios said Victoria’s older sister, Valerie, joked that the teen would not have liked the coronavirus quarantine.

“She said Victoria would enjoy it for two days and then after two days she’d want air…and say ‘Gosh when is this going to end?’”

As life continues to move forward, Barrios wants to make sure her daughter’s memory lives on.

Her goal is to help the case be solved. After that, she wants to help other families of victims do the same possibly by starting a nonprofit group that can collect funds to further investigate crimes.

“We can’t imagine families having their cases not solved for years,” Barrios said.

While Barrios sympathizes that maybe the culprits were young and “foolish” she wants them to be off the street.

“These people heartlessly and ruthlessly took a life and they can take another one,” she said.

And to anyone that passes a billboard who might have information:

“Put yourself in our place…Help us get some type of closure.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Santa Ana police at 714-245-8390. Anonymous tips can be submitted to occrimestoppers.org

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