SAN DIEGO — Religious figurines and bright chrysanthemums stood beside the blood-stained sidewalk where a 17-year-old boy fell dead when a neighbor opened fire on a group of skateboarders.
Ray Huffman, a high school senior, had been videotaping friends skateboarding as part of a project for his drama class Tuesday evening when Ruben Tadepa, 44, allegedly shot at the teen-agers with whom he’d often clashed.
Huffman had been preparing to tape a final few minutes of the teens performing tricks before nightfall when Tadepa ran onto the street brandishing a rifle, witnesses said.
“I ran back to my backyard because I was scared. And when I came out, there was Ray on the floor,” Jesus Leos, 15, said.
Tadepa was arrested Tuesday evening and jailed for investigation of murder.
He suffered minor injuries when police fired on him after he leveled his rifle in their direction.
Several teens from the racially mixed, working-class Lomita neighborhood of eastern San Diego said they’d long quarreled with Tadepa, who complained if kids went near his car.
Bill Huffman, Ray’s stepfather, said Tadepa was short-tempered and had brandished weapons before.
“He’s always been a problem. He’s a bully and he tried to bully all the kids all the time,” Huffman said. “And every time I’d go over there ... he’d shake my hand and say ‘Everything is fine. I won’t hurt the kids. All I want to do is scare them.’
“I’d say, ‘You don’t pull a weapon out on a kid to scare him.’ ”
Police efforts to calm the situation were futile, Huffman said. Ray had broken his hand while skating in May and no longer performed tricks, his father said.
Ray’s school video project, “Skateboard Survivor,” was to be turned in Friday, said drama teacher Danielle Bartelli-Oldfield.
She described the tall, lanky teen as enthusiastic and a skilled technician who did sound and music for class plays. He was considering college or the military after high school.
“He was talking to counselors, his parents, teachers and friends about what his best choices would be,” she said. “Ray was very versatile. He could have done anything.”
On Wednesday, the senior portrait of Ray Huffman, smiling in a tuxedo, leaned against the curb where he fell in front of a neighbor’s house, next door to his modest slate-blue home.
Bill Huffman said the son he’d raised since he was 2 was a good kid who avoided problems.
“He was never in trouble. He wasn’t running with gangsters. He didn’t even know gangsters. He wasn’t into drugs. He was a good boy,” he said, struggling to remain composed.
The elder Huffman was in his garage when he heard shots. He saw Tadepa running away with his gun — and then he saw Ray.
“I saw him laying over there — dead,” Huffman said, sobbing.