MARYSVILLE -- Doors usually open to all were locked Thursday after the man who ran the Hit Squad Boxing Center was murdered.
Messages written on the walls outside the gym on Willow express love and regret from people whose words show they looked to Taj Fields as a mentor, father figure and inspiration.
Robert Ahu says his friend and co-worker Fields also used his kind, mentoring nature at his day job working with clients at Sutter Yuba Mental Health Services.
It seems strange then that police believe he was killed by someone he, at least at one point, considered a friend.
Taj Fields was just steps away from the gym’s doorway last night when a man got out of a car, walked up, shot him multiple times and took off in the car.
Field’s 8-year-old son was just feet away.
Marysville Police Chief Aaron Easton’s sympathy for the boy is mixed with admiration.
“I use the word heroic, and I think that’s the most accurate word to use for this young man. He spoke with us and he gave us all the information we asked for to the best of his ability. He really hung in there and tried to take care of his dad to the best of his ability,” Easton said.
Thanks in part to that information, and information from other witnesses, police began looking into Roman Zarate as a suspect. Investigators say the 28-year-old stole a car from family members in Marysville and headed for family in Fresno.
Just before 9 Thursday morning, Fresno police say they spotted Zarate and arrested him. They also reportedly found a gun nearby that Marysville police say matches the caliber used to kill Fields. While they believe the evidence in the crime adds up, the motive isn’t so clear.
At one point, Zarate worked part time at the gym and knew Fields for years, according to police.
Zarate has a history of burglary and robbery arrests.
Police would not speculate on whether this murder was financially motivated.
Zarate will be brought from Fresno to Marysville to face murder and vehicle theft charges.