SAN PEDRO HIGH OFFICIALS LOOK TO THE COMMUNITY TO AID FAMILY TO BURY 17-YEAR-OLD BOY SHOT TO DEATH SUNDAY: HE HAD MANY ADOPTED MOTHERS AND ONE CALLS THE KILLING A “HATE” CRIME; POLICE SAY BOY HAD DONE NOTHING WRONG ADDING THE KILLING WAS OUT OF REVENGE AND UNRELATED TO EITHER THE TEENAGER, GANGS OR RACE
By Diana L. Chapman
While San Pedro High School officials seek financial assistance from teachers and residents to help bury a likable, 17-year-old boy shot and killed Sunday, the mother of Geilser (Michael) Alfaro’s girlfriend called the shooting devastating to her family and believes it was racially motivated.
The teenager, a former Dodson Middle and San Pedro High school student, was shot and killed in a dispute that started in an alleyway around 18th and Grand avenues about 11:30 Sunday morning. Police arrested two suspects, but one has already been released, said Los Angeles Police Lt. David McGill.
“It’s so sad,” said McGill, who added detectives believe it was a revenge killing that nothing to do with Alfaro. “It had nothing to do with race or gangs. We have the most up to date information. It’s got no bearing on the case.”
He added, however, that the Alfaro may have paid the price for some long ago feud between another family member and the suspect that didn’t involve him.
Gang members, however, had taunted Alfaro, who was Hispanic,for dating his long time, African-American girlfriend. He had a run-in with one of the suspect’s in the past.
Within a few hours of the shooting – which kept many residents locked in their homes on 18th Street, police arrested two brothers -- Albert, 21, and Joaquin Ortega, 19. Joaquin was released Wednesday because the District Attorney believed there was not enough evidence to charge him, McGill explained.
Albert, however, has been charged with murder and remains in jail, McGill said. Police continue to call Joaquin “a person of interest.”
Friends and family described Alfaro as a happy-go-lucky teenager, who believed life was good.
Nicknamed “Batman,” -- a super hero Alfaro adored -- friends and family members in mourning Tuesday say the boy was always smiling, loved to play with young children, hated tomatoes, was a maniac dancer -- with or without music -- and still watched and enjoyed Pokémon shows despite his age.
He even played with Pokémon toys, said Jessica Dorado, a friend and neighbor, who called him “a big kid.”
“He just made the best of everything,” Dorado explained. “He’d play with bugs and put them on strings and watch them fly around. His saying was: ‘Be a happy camper.’”
He befriended just about everyone, from nerds to gang members and he saw no racial barriers dating an African-American girl, which some friends and family believe ultimately caused his death.
Regina Williams, mother of Michael’s long time girlfriend, said she’s outraged by his death; she considered the boy her son. Her daughter, Ken Ya Broadnax, dated Michael for nearly five years after the pair met at age 13. Because they were so young, Williams said, she believed it was a passing fancy and that Michael would soon vanish.
Five years later, the two announced they would finish school, marry and have a baby.
At an apartment on the north end of San Pedro, friends, aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbors poured in and out to talk about Alfaro.
The young couple, they said, had quit going to San Pedro High, because they felt uncomfortable and were frequently teased about being a bi-racial couple. Due to the issues, the two left San Pedro High and enrolled at Toberman Settlement House’s: the City of the Angels, an LAUSD program, the girlfriend said, to get their degrees and complete their high school studies independently.
Ken Ya insists the taunts and slurs they received forced the couple to leave the campus, because they were fearful – especially after the shooting death of African American LaTerian Tasby, a San Pedro High football player who was killed at a party allegedly by Hispanic gang members two years ago.
That killing was never solved.
Michael “had more problems because of me,” Ken Ya lamented about her boyfriend. “There were just so many problems. Gang members were saying: “You know you can’t be with her.”
Several friends gathered at the site of the shooting this week, one friend trying to scrub away all the blood in the street. But large, pooled stains still remained on the road. Several candles were burning and bunches of flowers leaned against a fence.
Despite ridicule, Alfaro refused to quit seeing Ken Ya and the couple continued to plan their future together, family and friends said.
“He didn’t see color,” explained Ken Ya’s mother Regina, who has been helping Michael’s Spanish speaking-only father by taking him to see detectives and make funeral arrangements expected to be held next week. “He had every friend, Asian, Mexican. He was a good kid, a really, really good kid. I hoped and prayed that my daughter would end up with a good guy…and she did.”
Schools officials are asking the community to help the family.
San Pedro High Principal Jeanette Stevens immediately notified teachers, some of whom sobbed when they learned who died, and has asked that the community to come together to bury the teenager.
“Our school community was saddened today because of the loss of one former young student,” Stevens said. “Many students were overwhelmed by the tragic situation...
“As I look at how we work together as a community, I am inspired to see programs that exist to support our students in our neighborhoods, but with events like this shooting, I can't help but wonder what more we might be able to do to engage more students in activities and clubs that keep students in safe environments.”
Los Angeles School Board Member Richard Vladovic extended his "sympathies and condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Alfaro. As a community, we need to reach out to his loved ones and ensure that they have love and support in their time of need."
Friends said Alfaro was bubbly and happy and always advised everyone to enjoy life. At school, he was extremely successful in math, but was intimidated and troubled by English. At least two teachers at the high school, they said, took interest in him and tried to help him with his struggles.
Viridiana Juarez, a neighbor who helped raise Alfaro since the age of five and also considers him like a son, said her younger children were charmed by his playfulness. He’d toss them in the air, pretend he was Batman and get on the ground to play with the boys and their toys. The boys considered him to be like a brother, and are “devastated,” Juarez said.
Most of all, Alfaro liked to prove repeatedly that babies adored him more than anyone else – and would do everything to make them smile. In his short life, he became extremely close to his uncle, Hugo Alfaro, and the two often went four-wheeling together that strengthened their bonds.
The uncle, tears welling in his eyes, just said: "I loved him."
While police reported that Alfaro was shot in the head, the family says that medical staff told them that he was hit once in the arm and again in the back when “he was running for his life,” his girlfriend said who believes it was tied to their dating.
“Gangs are racial,” she said. “They run along racial lines.”
One boy, who asked not to be identified, said Alfaro was always there for him, even when he was kicked out of his house. He listened to his troubles. The friend added that he was that way for everyone.
Services are pending, but will be announced soon. Alfaro is survived by his father, Fermin Alfaro, his mother, Kembly Bararalizsett Tamyo Oyama, a sister, Jennifer, 10 and a brother, Fernando, 13.
Friends are asking for financial assistance for services. A car wash will be held over the weekend where donations will be accepted. The time and location will be announced.