Slain Youth Remembered
The Bell Gardens Community unites to help the family of Michael Cardenas who was fatally shot on Tuesday, Sept. 23, at Veterans Park.
By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer
Candles and flowers mark the spot where Michael Cardenas, 17, lived his final moments after being killed by gunfire at 8:45pm on Sept. 23. According to family members, Cardenas died in his 14-year-old sister’s arms at Veterans Park, located behind the Boys & Girls Club.
The teenager’s death shocked many in Bell Gardens and left his family angry at media reports that said Cardenas was allegedly a gang member.
“He was not a gang member, he wasn’t a troublemaker,” said his cousin Teri Munoz, 21.
Munoz said Cardenas was just a kid who liked to skateboard and liked to spend his free time at the park. She also said Cardenas’ friend was the intended target.
“They almost shot my little cousin [Cardenas’ younger sister], if she wouldn’t have dropped to the floor she would have been another body lying next to my Mikey,” said Munoz, who added that Cardenas was like a younger brother.
Laura Lopez, Cardenas’ aunt, remembers him as a caring young man whom everyone liked.
“He had dreams, he had hopes,” said Lopez.
She also said that last year Cardenas started his first job as a volunteer, he tutored students at Suva Intermediate School.
“He wanted to work to help his mother,” said Lopez, adding that Cardenas’ mom is a single mother.
The day after the shooting, family and friends gathered at the park where Cardenas died and held a candlelight vigil in his honor.
Last Friday at the Bell Gardens’ homecoming game, a moment of silence was held for Cardenas and fundraising efforts were announced, according to Marthaane Viurquiz, a family friend,
Viurquiz said a large number of high school students were present to support the family and do the physical work for the back-to-back car washes that weekend. Not only did they have 60 to 70 volunteers between Saturday and Sunday, but they also received support from members of the community who brought their cars to be washed.
“Both days were a success,” Viurquiz to EGP. “In the first five hours on Saturday we raised almost $2,000.”
Viurquiz said they had hoped to raise $3,000 during the weekend but raised almost $3,400. She said teenagers from the community have passed around a donation box to help raise money to cover funeral costs.
An adult at the car wash who asked to remain anonymous, lamented to EGP that some of the car wash volunteers felt threatened. Other sources confirmed that a car passed by with people throwing gang signs and they feared it was the same gang members involved in Cardenas’ death. A police report was filed but the suspects were not found.
Cardenas was a student at Vail High School in Montebello; his friend from the skateboarding park in Bell Gardens told EGP that Cardenas wasn’t interested in gangs.
“Mikey was a talented skater,” said the friend who also asked to stay anonymous. “He always had a smile on his face and he had a youthful innocence—but [that night] he was at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Cardenas’s friend also said the victim spent most of his time at the other side of the park where there is a skate park, and didn’t know why he was where he was when shot. The friend also told EGP that he too now feels threatened.
“Things are getting out of control,” said the friend. “Bell Gardens is getting scary, it’s to a point where I feel like I don’t want to be here anymore.”
According to Jeff Travis from the Bell Gardens Police Department, Cardenas’ death is the second homicide this year—last year at this time there had already been five homicides.
The investigation is still underway. Travis told EGP that he could not give information about the suspects at this time and didn’t want to “jeopardize the investigation.”
Cardenas’ viewing will be held Friday and the funeral will be on Saturday. A fund to help pay for the costs of the funeral has been established at Bank of the West. Donations can be made to account number: 683049852.Print This Post
October 2, 2008 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.