Faces of Milpas

"Norberto told me the police had told him they were going to kill him," she says.

Myra Rosales offers no support to her mother's theory. Instead, she believes her brother was killed in a drug deal gone bad.

Davalos' murder comes four years after another of Myra's brothers, Antonio, while fleeing police, ran a red light, crashed into a car and killed a person. Antonio is serving a 19-year prison sentence. A third brother, Alex, has moved outside the Milpas neighborhood and has no regular contact with the family, Myra says.

Joe Romero and Myra Rosales with their children (from left) Vanessa Rosales, Joeanna Romero, Evonna Rosales and Benjamin Romero.
Paolo Vescia
Joe Romero and Myra Rosales with their children (from left) Vanessa Rosales, Joeanna Romero, Evonna Rosales and Benjamin Romero.

A dearth of men is the norm in her kin's households, Myra says.

"If you look at our family, when we have get-togethers, there's really not that many men," Myra Rosales says. "My mom is a single woman, and we still have our family going. My aunt is a single lady, but she still has her family going."

What has happened to the men, especially the young men who father children?

If Myra's experience with her brothers and the three fathers of her five children is typical, the men vanish at an astounding rate. Some are in prison. Others die from violence or drugs. Some just leave. Many of the young men place a higher priority on hanging out with their "homeboys" than their families.

It's not rare for young men to sire children at the same time with different women. Myra's late brother has two daughters, born a month apart.

"He probably fathered more children that we don't know of," Myra says.

Myra believes many of the men are too dependent on the women and their mothers for support. She's frustrated with her boyfriend -- Joe Romero -- the father of her two youngest children.

"I do it all for him. I buy his shoes; I buy his underwear, his clothes; I put food in his mouth. Right now, he goes back to his mom, his mom is not going to accept him. He's going to want to come back home, no doubt. Because here it is too easy for him. And yet I nag at him and everything."

Myra says she wants to crack the whip, wants Romero to do more to support her and their children. Besides mothering her children, Myra works full-time at SkyMall as a customer-service representative, earning about $10 an hour.

"I should be more harder on him and not give him anything, not do anything for him," she says.

Her resolve crumbles in the face of her emotions.

"But I love him," she says.

Myra wants a different life, but doesn't know how to get there.

"I would like to have my man that had a job and that would support his family. A man should give his family a house," she says. "He knows that he has kids. You have to get a stable job somewhere so you can make enough to support us. He doesn't have a job. He's off and on with jobs. I don't know what it is."

Myra doesn't understand why her boyfriend, and many of the other young fathers in the neighborhood, avoid their children. For many, the closest contact with their children are tattoos bearing their children's names.

"Why can you not love this child like I love this child?" she says while holding Joeanna, a beautiful black-haired baby. "How can you not want to be around this child?"

There was a time when Romero hung with the LCM gang. He is named in the civil injunction.

"I would go out and grab him and say, 'Come on, you're going home with me now,'" she says.

"Running around with his homeboys -- it's not about that. It's about your family."

But the family and the homeboys and violence seem forever intertwined.

In mid-October, her cousin, Noe Rosales, got into a scrape with police after an officer attempted to arrest him in his front yard on misdemeanor traffic warrants. Noe broke free from the officer -- with the help of Myra's aunt, Raquel Rosales -- and ran down the street.

Police helicopters and a score of cop cars couldn't find Noe, who hid in a neighbors' attic, watching the search from a window.

Later that evening, Myra saw Noe at a nightclub on East McDowell. A fight broke out and spilled into the street. Someone fired a gun, and a friend of Myra's was shot in the face.

"He was leaning on me and my shirt got all full of blood as I was holding him," she says.

Her friend survived the shooting.

Myra says a police officer came up to her and said he was one of the officers that had identified her brother's body; he expressed condolences.

Another officer at the scene recognized Noe Rosales as the man who had bolted earlier in the day.

"He took off running," Myra says of her cousin.

This time, police caught up to Noe Rosales, and he landed in jail, where he was also served the civil-injunction papers.

By morning, Myra's friend had been shot in the face. Her aunt had been arrested and thrown in jail for helping Noe flee. Myra had spoken with an officer who helped identify her dead brother. Her cousin had fled from police twice within eight hours, been arrested, thrown in jail and served a civil injunction.

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