In just one year, Kern County went from celebrating its first drop in criminal homicides, to seeing a record-shattering year in deaths.
In 2020, with 137 lives were cut short, renewing a trend where Kern’s homicide total set a new high each year, with 2019 being the exception.
The July death of 13-year-old Patricia Alatorre, a girl described as like “sunshine” by her mother, stunned Bakersfield and drew a sharp focus to crimes against children. Her death became known just days after the shooting of 12-year-old Elayna Saidee Dorig and 11-year-old Makeliah Osorno in Delano, while they played together during a party.
Many victims were young. Of the 137 people killed in homicides this year, nearly 40% were younger than 30 years old. 14 were younger than 18.
The year’s youngest victim, 3-day-old Josiah Rivera, died from hypoxic encephalopathy as a result of his pregnant mother, Audreyanna Rivera, being shot to death in Lamont on Easter Sunday.
By year’s end, 108 people died in shootings, including 15 that involved law enforcement, such as the Taft Highway gunfight that killed Rivera’s suspected murderer, Javier Vidal.
The Kern County Sheriff’s Office had 15 total shooting incidents, with 11 being deadly. In December, even when praising an agreement with the Department of Justice on better policing practices, Sheriff Donny Youngblood said nothing in the agreement would have changed the outcome of those encounters. He noted multiple times this year that suspects had been more aggressive, armed or not.
Bakersfield Police officers were involved in 6 shootings, with 3 being deadly, the most recent happening on Maria Angelica Street. One officer was wounded by the suspect.
The shooting that involved neither agency happened in Rosamond. In June, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department killed Terron Jammal Boone in a shootout when deputies tried to arrest him in a kidnapping investigation. Body camera video was released for most, but not all incidents. And for communities outside of Bakersfield’s metro area, like Mojave, deputies were not equipped with cameras due to budget constraints.
Data collected in KGET’s Homicide Tracker showed Kern’s deadliest zip code was 93307. Measuring 139 square miles, the area spans Highway 99 to the west, Towerline Road to the east, East California Avenue and Edison highway to the north, and all the way down to Legray Road in Mettler to the south. According to citydata.com, 93307 is home to over 86,000 Kern residents. There were 21 homicides reported there in 2020, tying the high KGET recorded in 2016. Since 2015, there have been 625 total killings in Kern, and 93307 has seen just over 17% of that total with 108.
Inside prison walls, at least 5 inmates died in attacks that happened this year. 3 were killed at Kern Valley State Prison in Delano, with North Kern State Prison and Wasco State Prison both seeing one inmate death each. Noah Rutherford, another KVSP inmate, died in February after he was attacked in November 2019.
He’s not the only person to die from past wounds this year. Steven Castro died in May, but according to the Sheriff’s Office, he died from medical complications stemming from a gunshot he suffered in 1991. The shooting did not happen in Kern County. With Rutherford and Castro, the Kern County Coroner recorded 139 homicide deaths this year.
But these people are not just statistics — whether their deaths were considered criminal or justified, they were mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, and sisters and brothers. It’s their stories we try to tell with Homicide Tracker, so their lives aren’t lost in the numbers and other data of the investigations.
If you lost a friend or loved one in a homicide, and want to share stories, photos or fundraisers, you can contact us here.