By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
Alex turns and tells Rhonda Deleon and Suzzane Rivera: Get the kids, there's gonna be trouble.
Suzzane Rivera says she hears a click from the street, "like he cocked back the gun, and I said, 'That's it, I'm calling 911.'" She runs in. She doesn't know who rounded up the kids; her concern was for the girl in the street. She pries Sena off the phone, calls 911 and describes the scene in the street, a conversation her daughter recalls overhearing.
When Alex turns back around, he sees Richard Ayon trying to climb over the fence to confront the guy in the street. "He couldn't take any more, I guess," Alex says. "He took a step off the table and put a foot to the wall and put one foot over the fence." Alex and Tommy pull him off the fence, Tommy still atop the table bench, Alex and Richard on the ground now, and Josie is just stepping out the arcadia doors to yell for her husband to come down when Alex notices Tommy sort of quickstepping it toward the other end of the table.
Suzzane Rivera hears gunshots, two of them, boom, boom, then a bunch of louder ones.
Having warmed up Rhonda Deleon's 1967 Chevy truck on their way to go buy gum and cigarettes, Carl Rivera and Tony Deleon are backing out of the driveway when they hear the shots, too.
In the backyard, Alex Contreras says he hears three shots. He sees Tommy fall to the ground flat on his face. He feels a powerful sting in his jaw, like somebody slugged him. He realizes what has happened; he instinctively pulls out his .45. It has never been used for anything but target practice. Tracing the muzzle flashes, he fires back into the darkness.
Inside the house, Suzzane Rivera is saying to the 911 operator, where are you? He killed her, he killed her.
But people are running inside now and screaming, he's shooting at us. She tells the operator, oh, my god, he's killing us, he's killing us.
Richard Ayon is putting out the bonfire, to drown out the backyard silhouettes, visible from outside.
The door handle on the old truck is broken, and Carl Rivera has to roll down the passenger window to get out. He and Tony Deleon see the Riveras' 51st Drive neighbor at the time, Adam Tarango, hopping the fence and running across the yard toward the sound of the gunfire.
Bloodied, with a slug fragment in his jaw, Alex Contreras comes inside the Rivera house, his wife, Betty, seeing him for the first time since the shooting began. Alex's father died of a head wound a decade ago, a stray bullet into his bedroom on New Year's Eve. Now she sees blood all over her husband and becomes hysterical. "I thought, 'Oh, my God, he's gonna die just like his dad,' and I don't know, I just went crazy."
Adam Tarango, the neighbor, looks down Palm Lane, and later tells police he sees a girl pushing a Hispanic guy toward a house about two houses away from the Rivera home. He sees the grip of what he figures to be a large handgun sticking out of the guy's pocket, white Levi's, white tee shirt.
Rhonda Deleon comes inside the Rivera house, sits down, blank stare. I think they killed your friend, she says to Suzzane. Your friend from school. That kid who just got here.
Oh, my god, Suzzane Rivera screams to the operator. I have to go.
Carl Rivera now is at the side of the house, too, looking down Palm Lane. He looks over his fence and doesn't see anyone, not even Tommy, who is lying just on the other side. He glances down the street and sees a guy on the sidewalk two houses down, holding his arms out wide in provocation. "I didn't know if he was taunting me," he says.
He runs inside, sees Contreras with blood on his face. Contreras says, those guys are shooting at us. Carl Rivera goes to his room and gets his shotgun, takes it outside to the back and puts it inside an old Chevy, in case they come back.
Suzzane Rivera runs outside, sees Tommy on the ground, face down. Sena Rivera is outside now, too, screaming, Mom, don't let him die, do something.
Suzzane Rivera grabs Tommy's arms and tries to pull him toward the patio. Tommy, shot once near the base of his neck, grabs blindly, seizes her rosary and breaks it free of her neck.
Not knowing this, Tommy's grandmother, Connie, says later: "I think the good Lord gave him time to talk to Him, to say, 'Lord, if You're going to take me, I want to be ready.'"
The first officers arrive. One officer swings through the back gate, gun drawn, sees Carl Rivera wearing his bandanna, says, "You! Inside!" He does not say the same thing to Richard Ayon or Tony Deleon, who aren't wearing bandannas.
Josie Ayon is on the ground with Tommy, covering him with a blanket, trying to keep pressure on the wound. "Please," she says to the officer, "what do I do? Please help us."