Family of slain man pays respects in the Buddhist tradition
'Sophear did not deserve this'
By Adam Foxman (Contact)
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Sophear Riem's killing at a weekend bachelor party in Port Hueneme was like an earthquake, his mother said. It came without warning and shook friends and family to their foundations.
Riem, 20, of Oxnard was in a good mood on the last night of his life, said friends who spoke to him shortly before he was killed. A gentle, happy young man who always seemed to have a smile on his face, he was in his element in groups.
"Every day of his life was a party," said Angel Garibay, 22, who became friends with Riem at Sunkist School in Port Hueneme. "Everybody loved him."
Details about what happened at the party remained sketchy this week. Port Hueneme police said Wednesday that they had not determined a suspect or possible motive for the shooting, which also left four other men injured, two critically. But police think Riem was an innocent bystander in the wrong place at the wrong time, Sgt. Peter Freiberg said.
The host of the Saturday night party told Riem's father, Saren Riem, that two men the host didn't know showed up at the party in the 600 block of Lighthouse Way in Port Hueneme and asked the groom-to-be for beer. The prospective groom asked the men to leave the party, and they did, but one came back in and started shooting, Saren Riem said.
Sophear Riem, standing near the groom, was shot in the head as he tried to run away, his father said. He was pronounced dead at the scene early Sunday. Four other men, ages 23 to 33, were shot multiple times. On Wednesday, two remained in critical condition and two were in stable condition. Police have not released the names of the wounded men.
Sophear Riem's relatives and friends are gathering this week at Conrad-Carroll Mortuary in Oxnard to remember him and pay their respects according to the Buddhist traditions his parents brought with them from their native Cambodia.
About 150 mourners packed the mortuary Tuesday as the week of funeral rites began.
During the ceremony, the smell of incense filled the air.
Monks in orange robes chanted in their native language and prayed over Sophear Riem's body to allow his soul to rest peacefully. Buddhist mourners responded by praying that no one else will have to suffer a tragedy like theirs, said Sontheavy Riem, Sophear Riem's mother."We don't want anyone hurt like us," said Sontheavy Riem, 52.
After the ceremony, Sontheavy Riem described her son as a good kid who loved playing music with his band, Black Hand.
"I miss him," she said, tears rolling down her cheeks. Called Sushi by his friends — for his love of the Japanese delicacy — Sophear Riem had been a member of Black Hand for about five years. His performances for the heavy metal band were so exuberant that he sometimes stole the show, bandmates said. "He knew how to rock out on stage," said band member Chris Mejia.
Sophear Riem had big dreams for the band, said Deanna Romero, 21. "He wanted Black Hand to be the next Metallica if they could."
A graduate of Hueneme High School, Sophear Riem planned to eventually continue his education and work to improve communication between the United States and Cambodia, his mother said. But he wasn't in a rush, because he was enjoying his youth.
Saren Riem said his son accumulated a lot of life experience in his 20 years. When the family took a trip to Cambodia this spring, he helped rebuild a Buddhist temple in his father's village. The original temple was destroyed in the 1970s while the country was under communist rule.
Older relatives were impressed by the respect Sophear Riem showed them when he visited, and they couldn't believe it when Sontheavy Riem told them he had been killed, she said.
Garibay said he can't believe his friend is gone. "It seems like just a dream," he said. "He's just one of a kind."
Tuesday's ceremony focused on Sophear Riem's life, and there was little discussion about the killing. His cousin Bopha Hul was one of the few who broached the subject. After taking the podium to remember her cousin, she urged the group to not practice or advocate violence. She received a round of applause.
On Wednesday, Sophear Riem's father asked that anyone with information about his son's killer call the police.
"Sophear did not deserve this," he said, deploring violence. The next victim "could be any family, anybody."
Motive for party shooting unknown
Man killed, 4 hurt in Hueneme
By Adam Foxman (Contact)
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
The last viewing of Sophear Riem is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at Conrad-Carroll Mortuary, 401 W. Channel Islands Blvd., Oxnard. The final memorial service before his cremation is scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m. Monday at the mortuary.
A day into the investigation of a shooting that killed one Oxnard man and injured four others, including a groom-to-be, at a bachelor party at a seaside town house in Port Hueneme, police had more questions than answers.
Investigators believe a man drew a gun and began firing after an altercation between two groups of people at the party, but they have not confirmed the reason for the confrontation, where exactly it occurred, how the shooter came to be at the event or whether the crime was gang-related, Port Hueneme police Sgt. Peter Freiberg said.
Sophear Riem, 20, of Oxnard was pronounced dead at 12:19 a.m. Sunday at the scene in the 600 block of Lighthouse Way in Port Hueneme, Senior Deputy Medical Examiner Craig Stevens said Monday. The cause of death was a bullet wound to the head.
Riem had no ties to gang members and no criminal record, Freiberg said.
Riem was a former Hueneme High School student, said Crystal Genavia, an Oxnard College student who had known him casually since elementary school. Genavia, 20, remembered Riem as a sweet boy who was always kind to her even though they weren't close.
Riem and the four injured men were all shot multiple times, Freiberg said.
Three of the wounded remained in critical condition Monday, and one was in stable condition.
Freiberg declined to release the names of the injured men, whose ages range from 23 to 33, because authorities were still working to contact family members Monday, he said. It was not clear how severely the groom-to-be was injured.
Riem and all the wounded men were guests at the party, said Linda Kaplan, who lives across the street. Police were unsure how many people were at the party, estimating 20 to 40.
Kaplan said the bachelor party seemed to be under control until about midnight. Then she heard yelling and at least eight gunshots in quick bursts, she said.
She first thought the sounds might be fireworks but learned they were gunshots when she crossed the street to speak to the party's host, who was badly shaken.
The host, who is renting the town house with a roommate, told her that the shooting occurred in the home's garage and patio area and that he did not recognize the shooter, she said.
The town home is one of 309 units in a complex that is adjacent to the beach. Called Surfside III, it houses a diverse community — various ethnic group members, young families and seniors, renters and homeowners, weekend vacationers and permanent residents, said Marcy Sherbok, a property manager for the complex.
On Monday morning, the complex was quiet except for the sounds of construction and maintenance. The front gate stood open, as it had since firefighters locked it open when they came to help those wounded in the Sunday morning shooting.
Katy Greenstreet, a surfside resident for 16 years, said the complex is normally quiet. "I've never seen anything like this," said Greenstreet, a grandmother who is also the complex's resident artist. "We're really shocked.
"It's really sad to see something like this happen in our backyard," she said. "We love it here because it's so peaceful."
At the home where the shooting occurred, a beer keg sat behind a gate Monday, cans were piled in a trash bin, and the garage door was punctured. Otherwise, it was barely distinguishable from other units. Neighbors, including Kaplan, had gathered after the tragedy to help clean the place up, she said.
"We at Surfside III have lived in a very peaceful community for so many years, we just didn't expect anything like this to ever happen," said Kaplan, a senior who is a board member in the complex's homeowners association. "It's very frightening."