A story for every victim

Mother fears for her family after 17-year-old son is killed

Marcela Reyes

It was still daylight as Juan Manuel Ibarra walked along a Compton sidewalk with three friends, clutching his neon green skateboard on the way to Jack in the Box.

Moments later, the 17-year-old lay on the asphalt in a growing pool of blood, the skateboard beside him, his best friend screaming for him to wake up.

Investigators believe that shortly after 6 p.m., the group was approached by two people from opposite directions, said Lt. Dave Coleman of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. 

One of the two pulled out a handgun, pointed at Ibarra and fired four to six shots, Coleman said.  Authorities are looking for more witnesses in the July 30 shooting, which occurred on the territory of a Latino gang called Compton Varrio 3 or CV3, sheriff’s Det. Q Rodriguez said. 

PHOTOS: Remembering a teen killed in Compton

Rodriguez said he believes the gunman and the other person involved are teenagers who ran to a waiting car near North Chester and East Rosecrans avenues. 

“We believe that he [Ibarra] was specifically targeted,” Rodriguez said. 

At a vigil last week at the site of the slaying, Ibarra’s mother, Marcela Reyes, placed her hand over a photo of the boy, plastered to a bright pink poster board. Below the poster, a dozen candles flickered.

Reyes began to cry at dusk as she remembered the area, a quiet street lined with gated homes and driveways, cordoned off with yellow crime scene tape.

Deputies had held her behind the yellow tape days earlier. 

“I sensed something awful,” she said. “Part of me didn’t want to believe it.”

Reyes said her son was almost done with high school and wanted to join the military. He was known to parade around the house in an Army T-shirt. After cleaning the house, he’d ask his mom for $3 for Jack in the Box.

Detectives have told Reyes to be careful, as the rest of the family could be targets.

“It makes me feel scared because you know, we can’t live our life,” Reyes said.

She recalled other times when her sons have encountered gang members in the neighborhood.

About four months ago, her oldest son and a friend were opening a gate outside her home when a person passed by and shot in his their direction. No one was injured. 

She said about six months ago, Ibarra had been asked where he was from by gang members. Ibarra had said he wasn’t affiliated.

Marlene Vazquez, a friend of Ibarra’s who stayed at the vigil until the sun went down, said Ibarra was always on his skateboard and looked up to his older brother.

Ibarra was polite and would walk on the side closest to the street when he was out with Vazquez.

“He was a real gentleman,” she said.

Over the weekend, Ibarra’s family found a letter he had written to his brother-in-law. He said he was being followed and he was scared.  “When my daughter showed me the letter … I was terrified,” Reyes said.  “I wish I was there. I wish he would have told me. I wished a lot of things.” 

Now, Reyes is concerned for the safety of her two other sons, ages 15 and 19. 

“I don’t want something to happen to one of them,” she said.

She’s scared to pray at the shooting site.

“All I can do is pass by in my car and do a little prayer as I’m passing by, but that’s about it,” Reyes. “I can’t sit there like I used to.”

Anyone with information about the shooting can call the sheriff’s homicide bureau at (323) 890-5500. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477. 

-- Nicole Santa Cruz

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