IMAGE IS EVERYTHING

FRIENDS OF A MURDER VICTIM SAY POLICE LABELED THEM AS GANG MEMBERS--AND IGNORED OPPORTUNITIES TO CAPTURE THE KILLER

"I'm not having any more parties," Grende says.
Suzzane Rivera says she's usually the one to call 911 in her area, but admits police have been called to quiet her backyard gatherings from time to time. The last time, she says, was three weeks before Tommy died--Tommy had been out there with them trying to wail Mexican music. The neighbors had complained there had been fighting.

She still can't forgive the police, though, for not following through on their pleas to check Grende's house for the gunman. People were in the woman's backyard, she says; Grende told police later she heard noises. Someone could have told police something that night, or they might have found evidence. Later that morning, a neighbor of Grende's did find spent .44 shell casings and a cardboard sign reading "Hollywood" in a trash can behind Grende's house and gave them to police. None of it produced any new leads.

Suzzane Rivera says, "Some of the cops I work with, like one officer in the DARE program, he says, 'Great work, I love what you do, but the dress--sometime, you're gonna have to change a little.' Hey--when the last kid is out of a gang, I'll lay down the bandanna. This allows me to go into places the police can't. This allows me to touch hard-core kids. This allows the kids to confide and trust in me.

"You know, they know where I'm coming from. They know I've been there."
She sits in her kitchen, where so much happened that night, and remembers Tommy. He had come up with an idea she'd still like to follow through on. He wanted to produce a tee shirt, she says, as a moneymaker for one of the student organizations. He told her about it one day, asked if she'd pay $15 for it. She told him, I'll be first in line.

On the front, the shirt would say: "I love my raza." And on the back: "Enough not to kill them.

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