Police dragnet for gang members who shot woman headed home from church

Catherine Kennedy drove through an apparent gang shooting, and was struck by a stray bullet.

No news was bad news as Escondido police renewed its call for somebody, anybody to come forward with information related to the slaying of a 55-year-old Escondido woman on her way home from church Tuesday night.


A beloved wife and church worker, Catherine Kennedy was struck in the head by gunfire when she passed near some kind of crossfire between rival gangs in the 1800 block of E. Grand Avenue, according to Escondido police Lt. Justin Murphy.

Escondido police vowed a gang crackdown in the city with increased attention to gang members while the community grieved.

Escondido police Chief Craig Carter called the killing “a senseless tragedy” and said his department would be cracking down on street gangs.

“We are altering our resources to address this,” Carter said Wednesday. “If you are a gangster in the city of Escondido and you’re contacted [by police] we’re going to use the furthest extent of the law to make sure we deal with you.

“We will be on the lookout for any gang members who are doing anything wrong including jay-walking,” Carter said. “They’re going to get our attention. They break the law, they’re going to get to meet us.

“This is something that can not be tolerated in any city, let alone the city of Escondido,” Carter continued. “Our entire police department, the city, staff and residents themselves are grieving with the Kennedy family.”

Catherine Kennedy/Facebook

Kennedy’s funeral was scheduled for Friday, March 17 with a viewing from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at the Church of St. Timothy, 2960 Canyon Rd., Escondido 92025, followed by mass at 10 a.m., church officials said.

Kennedy was driving home from her regular Tuesday prayer meeting through a near-downtown section of town featuring single-level medical offices and apartments about 9 p.m. when a stray bullet struck her in the head, police said.

At least two possible gang members had been observed shooting at the moment Kennedy was struck, according to witnesses, police said.

Shell casings found only in front of the Pepperwood Meadows apartment complex on the south side of the street between Rose and Midway, coupled with the fact that no signs of bullets hit anything on the south side of the street, led police to “a 95 percent certainty” there wasn’t a shootout, according to Murphy. Police classified the incident as a drive-by shooting.

Kennedy drove another block in her silver Toyota Camry before driving off the road and into a parked truck.

Barbara Allen, 48, who was at the scene, said she tried to help Kennedy. “I came running across the street and checked her pulse,” Allen said. “She was gurgling. And then the ambulance came.”

Kennedy’s silver Toyota Camry came to a crashing stop a block away from where witnesses saw alleged gang members shoot.

Escondido police and fire EMTs transported Kennedy to Palomar Hospital where she later died of injuries, Murphy said.

Kennedy worked at St. Timothy Parish along with her husband Kevin, whom she married about three years ago. He led religious education at the church and she was a youth leader. She also worked 22 years as a registered dental hygienist at Brilliant Dental in Escondido.

“Cathy was on her way home from her regular Tuesday night prayer meeting,” said Mandy Montijo, a friend. “While Cathy does attend a regular Tuesday prayer meeting, on March 7 Cathy had attended a Penance service at the Church of St. Timothy which is held every year during Lent and Advent.

“It was a large community gathering attended by the entire church community along with 7-8 priests from other parishes in the diocese who came to hear confessions and offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation,” Montijo said.

“She was a wonderful person, caring and we can take comfort in knowing she is with her Savior Jesus Christ,” her sister Deborah Ware told KFMB.

As of late Thursday, the investigation continued around-the-clock to find the shooters. “No new developments in the homicide investigation,” Murphy said. “We are still actively following up on leads and sifting through the evidence.”

Murphy asked anyone with any information regarding this case, please call Detective Mayfield at (760) 839-4926 or Detective Rodelo at (760) 839-4422, or leave an anonymous tip at 760-743- TIPS (8477).

A few dozen people gathered at Kennedy’s church Wednesday night for a private prayer service, according to The San Diego Union Tribune.

A church spokeswoman said earlier in the day that Father Fernando Ramirez was too upset to comment on Kennedy’s death. “Cathy was one of the most wonderful people you ever want to meet,” she said.

“She was passionate about making a difference in her patients lives and everyone with whom she came in contact,” Brilliant posted.

In addition to her husband, Kennedy is survived by a daughter, Alicia de la Rosa, 24.


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