Stop the bloodshed
Tearful parents, friends march for lost loved ones, stolen lives
By DAVID J. CIESLAK
Citizen Staff Writer
With tears streaming, they marched in silence to honor slain loved ones and to send a message: Stop the violence.
“We must stop glorifying violence. We must strip it of its mystique because it’s very ugly,” said Carol Gaxiola, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jasmin, was shot to death one year ago Saturday.
Gaxiola was among about 150 people who marched along Oracle Road yesterday, then attended a rally at Tucson Mall to kick off the YWCA’s Week Without Violence.
Family and friends held one another and cried as they looked at photographs of the dead. Many also were deeply moved by what has become an annual tradition, a display of dozens of pairs of shoes placed in neat rows. They belonged to the victims of homicides.
“Fear, hate and frustration breed violence. The time is now to actively combat that,” said Gaxiola, whose daughter was gunned down Oct. 14, 1999, near West Valencia Road and South Mark Avenue.
Sheriff’s detectives believe the girl was shot to eliminate witnesses to a drive-by shooting near Santa Rita High School the year before.
Many at the rally called for stricter gun laws.
Elliott Glicksman, a lawyer with the Citizens of Arizona to Prevent Gun Violence, called on Tucsonans to “Put me out of business” by ending gun violence.
“We have the chance to say ‘No more, not in this community,’ ” he said. “It doesn’t have to be this way.”
Bonnie Nelson wept on her husband’s shoulder as Glicksman and others spoke about the need for gun control and keeping firearms locked away. Her 17-year-old daughter, Betty Jo Ortiz, was killed in an accidental shooting April 4 by her 15-year-old son.
“She was a beautiful girl, bright, really smart,” Nelson said of her daughter, who planned to attend Pima Community College after graduating from high school. “She was happy all the time.”
Maria Sanders, 33, also has firsthand experience in dealing with the results of violence.
Her 16-year-old son Mark Anthony Miles Jr. was shot to death July 16 in a car near East 22nd Street and South Craycroft Road.
Yesterday, Miles’ family cried over his loss – and told of the heartache that comes with losing a promising young man.
“I cherish the memories I have of him, his smile, his jokes,” Sanders said as she wept.
Bonnie Nelson and Maria Sanders wept when Eddie James took the microphone and sang Sarah McLachlan’s “In the Arms of An Angel.”
“In the arms of an angel, far away from here,” he sang soulfully.
“You’re in the arms of an angel. May you find some comfort here.”
The Week Without Violence will continue through Saturday, and activities are planned every day.
10:30 a.m.-noon: Parents Anonymous parent support group (Spanish-speaking only). No charge. Child care provided. Contact Georgina Molina, 319-1040.
12:15-1:30 p.m.: Compassionate Communications. New Directions in Non-Violence. Main Library, 101 N. Stone Ave. Contact Sylvia Haskvitz, 624-8318.
6-8 p.m.: Domestic Violence Men’s Group. Counseling by Family Counseling Agency, 209 S. Tucson Blvd. $15 per session. Contact 327-4583.
Tucson kids caught more often in cross fire
By GABRIELLE FIMBRES
Citizen Staff Writer
A mother and her two young children are slaughtered, all for the fancy rims on their car.
A 3-year-old girl watches the murder of her parents and narrowly escapes death as she is shot in an attack police say could be drug-related.
A 12-year-old girl is shot to death during a robbery at her family’s drug house.
In the world of thieves and thugs, there always has been an unwritten rule when it comes to children: Do whatever you have to do, but leave the little ones alone.
Apparently the code among criminals is dead.
In case after case in Tucson, children are being gunned down or are witnessing the murders of those they love from inches away.
Is this a trend?
“The demographic factors are suggesting this might not be a fluke,” said Tucson psychologist Dennis Embry, who has studied youth violence around the nation. “We’re seeing this kind of thing a lot more. This was an explosion waiting to happen.”
In some cases – such as the Aug. 4 carjacking deaths of Lucila Bojorquez; her daughter, Jenny, 7; and her son, Brandon, 6 – the victims simply may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Bojorquez had driven her Ford Thunderbird to Menlo Park Apartments, in the 400 block of North Grande Avenue, to visit a friend.
A 16-year-old Tucson boy has been indicted on three counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of the family, which apparently were prompted by the theft of $1,600 tire rims.
But in other cases, parents are putting their children in dangerous situations, local law enforcement officials, said.
A flood of inexpensive, highly addictive drugs, combined with the availability of handguns, is contributing to this rash of horrifying violence that is killing, crippling and devastating children, Embry said.
“I think the drug trade and the nature of the drugs being used has affected this, and a much larger number of children are exposed to very dangerous situations,” said Embry, president of the PAXIS Institute.
He said drugs, including methamphetamine, are popular in the western United States and “induce paranoia and make people do yucky, yucky, very bad things” – including murdering a child.
Tucson police see firsthand the ugly turn crime has taken.
“You have more people committing crimes who are desensitized to their actions,” said Sgt. Mark Nisbet, who supervises the Tucson Police Department’s gang unit.
“Younger people are displaying less and less value of human life. They see no future for themselves, they have no respect for themselves, so why should they respect anyone else? I think there’s a complete reckless disregard for human life.”
But these violent youths who have little regard for human life might be coming from homes of chaos, homes where drugs and alcohol rule and children are left to fend for themselves, Nisbet said.
And these children are at greater risk for being injured or killed themselves, Nisbet said.
“We see young parents cruising Sixth Avenue with their children in tow. You find children – 4-, 5-, 6-year-olds – roaming the streets at all hours, and you take them home, and their parents are intoxicated, they’re passed out.”
Nisbet, who has three sons, recalls a 6-year-old boy he found playing in the street at 2 a.m.
He took the boy home and woke up his parents, who said the child’s 10-year-old brother was supposed to be watching him.
“If the children don’t become victims, they are learning a lifestyle from their parents,” he said. “They become victims by learning their parents’ lifestyle. A lot of it becomes a tradition. It’s expected that they’ll grow up and be in a gang and go to prison. It’s brought down from generation to generation.”
Parents involved in the drug trade often are not protecting their children from the dangers associated with the business, he said.
“Kids are home when their parents are dealing drugs. There will be needles on the floor and drugs all around. Parents are oblivious to what their children can get into,” he said.
Nisbet recalls one family justifying selling drugs at home by saying the children were not allowed to go into the room where transactions were held.
“They thought that made it OK. It’s unimaginable how some of these kids live,” he said.
Tucson police Sgt. Marco Borboa, who has 10 years of patrol experience, said it can be difficult for officers who are parents to see the dismal, dangerous situations children are living in.
In homes where substance abuse and poverty are involved, children are often left with no parental supervision.
“You worry about those children,” said Borboa, who has two daughters.
“There is no schedule, no mealtime, no set time for homework, no bedtime. How are we preparing them to succeed in the future?” he asked.
He knows many of these children will become victims or criminals.
Borboa believes there is not enough information to determine whether the recent series of crimes against children is a map of the future.
“I hope for the sake of our community they are not a trend,” he said.
Dr. Richard Carmona, a Tucson trauma surgeon and a deputy with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, also believes there are too few cases to declare a trend. However, he has witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of shootings in Tucson in the past 15 years.
“Is it too much TV or a lack of role models or not enough parental supervision? It’s hard to know. But in the last decade and a half, as Tucson has become less of the Old Pueblo and more of a big city, we’ve seen more of an increase in juvenile crime,” he said.
“When I first came here in 1985, we used to see a few gunshot wounds a month. Now we see one a day.”
Deputy Pima County Attorney Kathleen Quigley, who teaches gun safety and awareness to Tucson children, agreed that children can be hurt when parents place them in danger.
“I don’t think people are targeting children. But they don’t look at life and people the way we do,” Quigley said.
Psychologist Embry fears Tucsonans are likely to see more criminals without consciences and more innocent victims.
“Somehow, the modicum of restraint is gone,” he said.
And with little meaningful rehabilitation available to drug addicts, the number of victims will rise, he predicted. Homes will grow more chaotic – and those hurt the greatest will be the children, Embry said.
“Kids see all this craziness, and they are left unbuffered,” he said. “They are not given any form of protection in the world. No one is telling them this violence, this chaos they are seeing is abnormal and there is another way.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Photos by FRANCISCO MEDINA/Tucson Citizen
Penchan Kennedy (left), the aunt of Mark Anthony Miles, stands with Maria Sanders, Miles’ mother, at the Stop the Violence display. Miles, 16, was shot to death July 13 at a Jack-in-the-Box on 22nd Street and Craycroft Road.
LEFT: Carol Gaxiola (left), whose daughter Jasmin was shot and killed last year, leans on Victims Advocate director Gail Leland (center) and Sharon Boryczewski, whose daughter Rachel was killed three years ago. The three attended yesterday’s Stop the Violence march and presentation at Tucson Mall.
TOP LEFT: The small boots of a little girl who was killed are among the shoes of victims on display at the Tucson Mall.