Things That Matter

An LA Shooting Claimed The Lives Of Two Men, A Latino Ph.D Scholar Who Dreamed Of Working For NASA And A Father-To-Be

José Flores Velázquez / Facebook

In cities across the US, people continue to die due to senseless gun violence. Los Angeles is no stranger to shootouts and, unfortunately, three more people fell victim to gun fire on Wednesday – leaving two of them dead and their friends and family in mourning. 

The shooting spree took place in South Los Angeles and one of the victims has been identified as a talented scholar full of big dreams. 

Gun violence has struck again in Los Angeles, killing two and injuring a third.

Two men were killed and another injured  in a drive-by shooting into a vehicle in South LA.

When police arrived at the scene, they found two men with multiple gunshot wounds. One of the men was pronounced dead at the scene. The second was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. A third man, suffering from a single gunshot wound, was taken to a local hospital where he was treated and released.

Investigators said the two deceased victims were standing outside of a parked car when the suspect’s vehicle drove up and a passenger opened fire, striking both men. The suspect shot the third victim a short distance away as the suspects fled the scene. 

Police are still investigating the motive for the shooting.

One of the victims was Jose Flores Velazquez who was working towards his doctorate at UC Irvine.

Distraught family members who arrived at the scene told KTLA the man who died there was Jose Flores. He and the second man killed, Alfredo Carrera, grew up together six houses apart on the street where they were shot.

Carrera, meanwhile, was about to become a first-time father with his girlfriend, his aunt Michelle Garcia said.

The baby shower was set for Saturday, Garcia added.

Family said Carrera had been shot at least once in his back.

Investigators have yet to release information on the suspects and declined to release a description of the vehicle involved. The relatives say they have no idea who would want to target the men.

Police say the men were victims of a drive by shooting.

A 911 caller told officials a vehicle drove up and the passenger pulled out a handgun. An argument ensued, then shots rang out, said Lt. Derrick Alfred.

It appears that they had driven up and were saying goodbye outside the car to each other when the car drove up (and) some words were exchanged,” Rubenstein said. “Somebody from inside the suspect vehicle fired multiple rounds, striking both the men.”

Velazquez was a nationally recognized scholar who eventually wanted to work for NASA.

Flores was a physics doctoral student at UC Irvine and had his sights set on a job at NASA, a family member told KTLA.

“He was one of the most hardworking people I’ve ever met,” said a former sister-in-law at the scene who asked not to be named.

Many took to social media to share their shock and died about the loss of such an accomplished young man who was full of dreams.

While fellow grad students shared in their disbelief.

People who knew Velazquez have been sharing memories and talking about what a kind and caring person he was. They also talk about his many talents, skills, and dreams – of which, he had many.

If you’d like to support Velazquez’ family during this time, they have a GoFundMe page setup here

After A Film Crew Went Into Boyle Heights And Began Towing Cars On Labor Day, A Local Artist Confronted Them

Things That Matter

After A Film Crew Went Into Boyle Heights And Began Towing Cars On Labor Day, A Local Artist Confronted Them

nico_avina / Instagram

For many in Boyle Heights, a working-class neighborhood in East Los Angeles, Labor Day was to supposed to be a relaxing stress-free day. However, on Monday afternoon, local residents living next to Hollenback Park were dealing with Blank Slate Pictures, a film production company, that was towing their vehicles. The messy ordeal was something that Boyle Heights resident and artist Nico Aviña had previously seen before but never on a national holiday like Labor Day when many in the working-class community have the day off. 

The predominately Latino neighborhood of Boyle Heights has become a popular area for filming movies and television shows. Yet quite often, the production crews that come into the area haven’t had good communication with local residents when it comes to things like moving their vehicles.

According to L.A. Taco, Aviña saw the situation unfold right before his eyes as he was doing yard work in front of his home. He noticed that neighbors across the street from the park began alerting each other about their vehicles being towed. Upon checking out the scene, Aviña saw a tow truck begin taking cars away and a parking enforcement officer placing tickets on cars windshields. 

That’s when Aviña took things into his own hands and began to ask members of the production crew why they were doing all of this. 

In a series of four Instagram videos, Aviña shared his confrontation with members of the production crew asking them what business they had coming into the neighborhood and towing away residents vehicles. Since this wasn’t the first time he’s seen this happen, Aviña began questioning the motive behind crew members calling city parking and promptly towing away cars.

Aviña made sure that David Mandell heard his frustration about outsiders disregarding community members in Boyle Heights.

Credit: davidmandell / Instagram

“So this is what happens when people from outside of the community come into our community. They use the city against the community, towing cars,” Aviña says as Mandell, a co-founder of Blank Slate Production, argues back. 

In the series of videos, you can hear Aviña begin to get frustrated with crew members as they dodged questions about why they were towing cars and why they didn’t give notice to residents about parking restriction before the weekend. Speaking to L.A. Taco, he said that many of the families in the neighborhood were out town due to the holiday weekend and might have not seen a notice about the production crew and possible parking restrictions. 

“In the video, you hear one claim the signs went up Friday. Kids didn’t go to school on Friday. So if people took a four-day trip how were they going to see the signs?” Aviña told L.A. Taco

Aviña took exception with the production crew as he asked them why there was no alternative to calling a tow truck on residents cars.

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Part. 4

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“This is a working-class community. On Labor Day, you’re towing cars. Are you for reals? Did you guys think about that? Did you guys think about this is a working-class community and you guys are towing cars on our day off and we have nowhere to park? Aviña says in the video. “Where’s the alternative parking that you guys offer?”

Aviña and Peter Vogel, co-founder of Blank Slate Production, discussed the parking situation at hand. “You may park in that parking lot over there,” Vogel told Aviña. “It’s open.”

“No. You just said that right now, but you know it’s closed. I just told you it was closed,” Aviña responded. 

“No, you didn’t,” Vogel said.

“You’re going to act like that? Are you going to act like that?” Aviña replied.  

Ironically, the film that the production company was filming is about a woman who is “forced to raise her son in her car” as they “attempt to find a way out of homelessness.” 

Credit: @elrandomhero / Twitter

Blank Slate Pictures was in Hollenbeck Park to film the upcoming movie “Like Turtles,” which according to IMDB is based on a mother who “is forced to raise her son in her car and attempt to find a way out of homelessness all while never letting her son realize the severity of their circumstances.” Some on social media found irony in the situation that a film crew doing a movie about a person living out of their car while at the same time towing away residents cars. 

Parking tickets have become a notorious problem in the neighborhood as there are limited spaces for residents to park their vehicles. With the addition of weekly street cleaning, many residents are forced to move their cars and shuffle spaces to avoid getting a ticket. Those tickets come at a steep price, according to the LA Times, retrieving a towed car can cost close to $290, this includes a $133 charge for the tow, an additional $115 to release the car and $46.56 for each following day the car is in city storage. 

For Aviña, this issue goes beyond just towing cars but is a perfect example of when outside forces come into the neighborhood and don’t bother to reach out to the community.

Credit: @avalonsensei / Twitter

Aviña brings up the issue of privilege and gentrification that has affected the working-class neighborhood for the last decade. He points to the production crew as an example of this and them not reaching out to the local community. Boyle Heights has been ground zero in LA when it comes to gentrification as many longtime residents have lost their homes and businesses due to rising rents and development. 

“You see what I’m talking about, the privilege? You could’ve easily knocked on doors, man. You could’ve easily warned the community. Instead, a working-class neighborhood that is barely affording the effects of gentrification that pays the rent. […] A working-class community that can’t afford the rent because of the exploitation, because of what’s going on with gentrification. And instead of knocking on their doors, what do you do? You get their cars towed away,” Aviña says in the final video to the production crew. “So now they got another fine. Now they got a parking ticket, plus get their cars out. You know I’m making sense. You know it’s the truth. It’s our reality. We live this shit every day. You’re not the only ones that come and film here. We gotta deal with this daily.”

READ: This YouTuber Thought It Would Be Funny To Dress As A Mexican In Boyle Heights But Didn’t Get The Response He Wanted

The Internet Has Come Together To Fund The Funeral Of Leilah Hernandez — An Odessa Shooting Victim Who Had Just Celebrated Her Quince

Things That Matter

The Internet Has Come Together To Fund The Funeral Of Leilah Hernandez — An Odessa Shooting Victim Who Had Just Celebrated Her Quince

Our Texas familia has had a difficult and heartbreaking August. At the beginning of the month, a domestic terrorist attacked an El Paso Wal-Mart, targeting the city’s Latinx population. The attack resulted in 22 deaths and harmed dozens more. On the final day of August, another domestic terrorist went on a shooting spree along the West Texas interstate spanning two cities. The assault started in Midland, Texas and ended over 20 miles away in nearby Odessa. 

When the massacre was over, 7 people were dead and 25 were wounded.

Leilah Hernandez was one of those 7 who died in the Odessa/Midland shooting. 

Twitter / @BeccaFromTX

The 15-year-old had recently celebrated her Quinceañera and was the youngest victim to lose her life because of this assault. Hernandez died at the scene, wrapped in her older brother’s arms. The pair were out shopping with their parents for a truck. Her brother, Nathan, remains in Intensive Care as he receives treatment for his injuries. Understandably, Leilah’s family is reeling from her tragic loss.   

To help cover Hernandez’s funeral cost and medical bills for the family, her father set up a Go Fund Me campaign. The fundraiser reads, “Please help out our family as we had a tragedy today” and features a portrait from Hernandez’s Quinceañera.

Though the campaign has only been open for 3 days, it has raised over $24,000 for the grieving family. 

Twitter / @Nathan_H001

The campaign has been shared over 6,000 times and has nearly 500 contributors. Though the fundraiser has earned over double its goal, it is still accepting donations to help Hernandez’s family during this horrific time.

Besides monetary donations, the Go Fund Me page has been swarmed with condolences from those impacted by the news of Hernandez’s untimely death.

  Go Fund Me

Many donors expressed their frustration with our government’s failure to enact gun reform legislation. Many feel that the only way to avoid further deaths by assault rifles is to make the weapons more difficult to obtain. If our representatives act in our nation’s best interest and regulate these weapons, deaths like Leilah’s could be avoided 

Nathan’s bravery was acknowledged in the condolences and comments left on the fundraiser. 

Go Fund Me

Nathan’s injury resulted because he was attempting to shield his sister. He suffered a gunshot to his arm while holding Leilah. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to save his sister from the bullet that took her life but he held her and offered her comfort in her final moments. His bravery should be acknowledged and commended. We’re sure Leilah is very proud of her big brother.

Some saw parallels between Hernandez’s family and their own. 

Go Fund Me

This donor shared that her own daughter recently celebrated a Quince ⁠— just as Hernandez did this past May. The comparison goes to show that this could happen to any family. Mass shootings have become an epidemic and it seems that no space is safe. The thought that these tragedies could touch our lives is terrifying but it’s a reality we need to acknowledge. 

Others shared their condolences and prayers for the family. 

Go Fund Me

“We have to help,” this comment begins. Though prayers alone won’t change the world we live in, hopefully, the enormous outpouring of love, well wishes, and prayer will provide some comfort to the Hernandez family. 

We hope Leilah’s family and the families impacted by this tragedy are comforted by the support being shown by their communities. Let’s continue to help these victims in their recovery and hope something changes to avoid the next seemingly preventable tragedy.