Faces of Milpas

Davalos was shot to death sometime in the early morning hours of March 20. His body was discovered just before noon that day in an alley in the 2000 block of West Roma Street. It was taken to the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office. Although he carried no identification, Davalos was well known to detectives who had targeted him as part of the three-month gang racketeering investigation of Eastside LCM.

Davalos had been fingerprinted repeatedly, including prior to serving a nine-month prison term in 1995. While he carried no identification, Davalos' numerous tattoos -- including "LCM" etched in large letters across his stomach -- made Davalos' ties obvious. His body also bore tattoos of his mother's name, Natalia, his own initials, the name of a girlfriend and his daughter, the word "Milpasa" and a spider web, which usually indicates a prison stint.

Despite numerous clues to his identity, police say they couldn't identify Davalos for 10 days. During this time, family members grew increasingly worried about his fate. The family called the jail and area hospitals repeatedly, hoping to learn what happened to Davalos. They knew Davalos had a drug problem -- heroin and cocaine addiction -- but he stopped by the house nearly every day.

Reimundo "Indio" Mendoza in his home.
Paolo Vescia
Reimundo "Indio" Mendoza in his home.
"We were tired of seeing homeboys die, homeboys go to the joint and homeboys strung out on dope."
Paolo Vescia
"We were tired of seeing homeboys die, homeboys go to the joint and homeboys strung out on dope."

"He would come over here and check on my grandma and my mom and see how they were doing," says his sister, Myra Rosales. "He would always bring my grandmother doughnuts, because he was a sweet freak."

He left the house on the evening of March 19 and never returned.

A review of police reports and autopsy records, and interviews with several officers and family members, raise troubling questions about the handling of the case.

Police sergeant Jeff Halstead says homicide detectives requested assistance from the gang squad within 24 hours of finding Davalos, who had been shot three times in the head. Halstead says the gang squad dispatched a detective who "had knowledge of the LCM eastside gang" to look at Davalos' body and tattoos prior to the March 22 autopsy.

The detective, whom Halstead has not identified, did not recognize the body or the tattoos even though gang-squad detectives have an extensive computer database of gangsters and their tattoos, Halstead says. The gang-squad detective then took fingerprints and ran them through a statewide database. Once again, police say, Davalos fell through the cracks, despite his criminal record and prison sentence.

"The guy was not in our system," Halstead says.

Police say Davalos was finally identified when gang-squad detective Steve Bailey happened to make an inquiry on an unrelated case and the homicide detective handling the case, Dennis Olson, asked Bailey to look at photos of Davalos.

Bailey immediately recognized Davalos, pulled a police record and matched fingerprints. Halstead says that occurred on March 30, the day before the March 31 roundup was scheduled.

When asked why the first gang-squad detective didn't recognize Davalos, Halstead said the gang-squad sergeant "just didn't send out the right LCM guy" the first time. Halstead's response indicates police clearly believed that Davalos was affiliated with LCM within 24 hours of finding his body. Yet rather than pursing the LCM connection, police apparently did little the next 10 days to formally identify Davalos and notify his family. While Davalos' body lay in the morgue, police prepared search warrants to enter his home to make an arrest.

Once a positive identification was official, police elected to conduct their sweep of the Milpas before notifying Davalos' survivors. Police executed several search warrants at 7 a.m. on March 31. A few hours later, police held a meeting with neighborhood residents at the Wesley Community Center to brief them on police actions.

At the 10 a.m. meeting, police displayed a poster with the photos of the three men who were arrested that morning -- Joe "Baby Joe" Minguia, Ray "Fat Ray" Valenzuela and Margarito "Lito" Rodarte -- along with a shot of a fourth man, Eastside LCM leader Felix "Gato" Medina, who had been arrested 11 days earlier.

The poster also displayed photos of four other men whose faces were covered up by white paper. The poster indicated three of the men were still wanted. Beneath the fourth photo, police had written "Deceased."

Central City precinct commander Joe Klima, who was head of the Phoenix police gang squad during the LCM sweep, says a LCM gang member approached a police sergeant, pointed to the photo marked deceased, and said, "That's 'Beto' [Davalos' gang moniker], isn't it?"

"The 'hood knew he was dead before we did," says Klima, adding that the sergeant declined to confirm it was Davalos because the family had not been notified.

"Everyone knew but us," says Myra Rosales.

Police finally notified the family at 1 p.m. on March 31 of Davalos' violent death. Police say they have no suspects in what appears to be a drug-related homicide.

Myra Rosales says the family was enraged to learn from neighbors that Davalos' photo -- even though covered -- was displayed during the briefing. Their anger escalated when they examined Davalos' body and saw that -- other than the bullet wounds -- it was in good condition.

"He looked perfectly fine," Myra Rosales says. "He didn't look like he had been out in the sun so long so that you couldn't identify him."

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