Longform

Risky Business

Page 3 of 6

Their father lives in Sonora, Mexico, where Jose is scheduled for burial a few days later.

Andrea, an 18-year-old senior at Avondale's La Joya Community High School, was just a few feet from her brother when a still-unidentified man in a passing car shot him. Moments earlier, the siblings and Andrea's boyfriend, Frank Dominguez, had left a house party on nearby West Earll Drive.

Andrea tells New Times that Rockin' The Streetz didn't have anything happening that night. Instead, the siblings and Dominguez decided about 10:30 p.m. to check out the newly announced party on 63rd Avenue and West Earll.

No matter that 10 p.m. marks curfew in the city of Phoenix for those under age 15. Jose pretty much had been doing as he'd wished for some time, what with his mother's long hours at work and no father around to supervise him.

A 15-year-old girl who lives with her parents at the party house on Earll later told a Phoenix detective how she'd come to host the shindig.

She claimed that members of party crews Dime Peace Entertainment and Playground Pimps had shared the bill, and offered her a coveted spot in one of the crews if she came through for them.

That meant opening her parents' home for the party.

The girl, a sophomore at Carl Hayden High, said her parents were going out that night and probably weren't going to be home until after 2 a.m., when the bars close.

They had given her permission to have a few girlfriends over, she said, as long as she kept everything low-key. Sure thing, she'd told them.

Sometime after 9 p.m., an information line gave directions to the party.

A DJ with a carload of stereo equipment and CDs pulled into the driveway, followed by crew members with a keg of beer and other party favors.

By 11 p.m., more than 100 people had shown up.

The young "hostess" and others who attended later swore that everyone had been getting along fine before the police broke up the happening.

"Everyone was chilling," says Andrea Renteria. "I didn't have a problem with no one, and neither did Jose. We only left because the cops were about to break it up."

Just after 1 a.m., Phoenix police officer Ryan Petker responded to a call about a loud party on Earll that was keeping people in the neighborhood awake.

As he pulled in front of the party house, Petker heard what he later described as five to seven gunshots coming from around the corner. He called for backup, and then heard more shots coming from the same direction.

Petker quickly drove over to see what was happening and saw a woman running toward him screaming for help. It was Andrea Renteria. Moments later, he saw a line of cars speeding away in the opposite direction.

Lying on the sidewalk was a boy with a terrible gunshot wound to his head. His breathing was shallow, and his blood already was seeping onto the dark pavement.

Another young man, 18-year-old Francisco Atilano, also had gotten hit by a bullet, in his upper right leg. But his injuries weren't life-threatening.

Witness accounts varied dramatically, as they usually do in such highly charged situations.

Andrea Renteria told police that she'd seen a Latino man in a red ball cap fire a handgun from a passenger-door window of a gray Caravan. But she said she couldn't identify the shooter.

Others described markedly different vehicles from which the killer had fired -- a red Suburban, dark Monte Carlo, Jeep Cherokee.

The police soon caught up to the posse of partyers who had just seen Jose get shot, and also to a vehicle whose three passengers had been a subject of the chase.

Officers detained the trio -- two men from New Jersey and a Mexican national -- in a gold Cherokee. But after detectives interviewed them later that morning, they concluded that the men had just happened to be in the area at the time of the shooting.

Jose's oldest sister, Marianna, rushed to the scene after her sister Andrea had called her. But paramedics already had transported the boy to St. Joseph's Hospital.

"The thought of someone shooting my brother is sick," says 21-year-old Marianna, who, like her siblings, was born in Tucson.

"He was just a little kid, and he wasn't into any violence, no way. He was just coming out of a party. A party! House parties used to be somewhere for people to kick it, drink some Bacardi, Jell-O shots, meet people. Maybe just smoke a little weed, and act goofy. It wasn't about murdering no one."

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin