By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Family members began to arrive, and Boyle’s job was to minister. Cara Gould came with Monica. Rosa Campos’ daughters, Roman’s cousins, came right away too. His twin brothers were being detained by the police for questioning, but Roman’s older brother and sister were there. His mother elected not to come. "She’s never been there for him anyway," someone said bitterly.
Monica broke down at the hospital. "What am I going to do?" she cried. "What do I say to our little girl?" For Boyle, the knowledge didn’t sink in until much, much later. "When you do this kind of work, it’s guaranteed you lose kids," he says, his voice frayed by grief and fatigue. "I’ve buried nearly 100 since I came to this barrio. Every one of those deaths was hard. But there’s always a short list of kids you know you can’t afford to lose. For me, Roman was at the top of that list."
"For me, Roman wasn’t even on the list," Gould says. "I was that sure he was completely out of danger."Monica and their little girl
The death of a young man or woman tears a hole in the fabric of any community. After decades of gang warfare, Pico-Aliso has many such holes. Still, Roman’s death hit residents from a noticeably different angle. "Until he died, there was the belief that you would be somehow inoculated if you did the right thing," says Cara Gould. "That’s part of why what happened is so devastating to so many people. Suddenly there’s no hermetic seal."
The reaction was most extreme among Roman’s contemporaries. On Thursday, the morning after the shooting, William Ayala’s brother Victor burst into Father Boyle’s office, pulled a chair very close to the priest’s desk, then began to cry. Like William, Victor used to be a gang member. Two years ago, however, he put his gang affiliation aside and went to work in the Jobs for a Future office, where he morphed into an ideal employee. Usually, Victor’s personality tends toward stoicism. Boyle had seen him cry only once before in 15 years. Now the force of the ex-cholo’s distress startled him. "It’s so messed up, what happened to Trigger," Victor said. "And it could have been my brother. I don’t want William to go down to the projects anymore. He can’t take that risk. It would kill me if ä something happened to my brother."
The circumstance was made weirdly ironic because, unlike Roman and William, Victor wasn’t from TMC. He was from Cuatro Flats, the gang that killed Roman and nearly killed William. Moreover, Victor was rumored to be the one who once shot the hat off Roman’s head. "Trigger was my friend," he said, his voice ragged with genuine misery. "I grew up with him too. I had love for him too."
That same morning, Arnold Machado, another former TMC gang member, found he couldn’t make himself walk the approximately 25 feet from his front door to his car. Arnold, a moon-faced, sunny-natured man, lives with his common-law wife and their three kids in a small, neat bungalow on Clarence Street, a few doors down from where Roman was shot. Five days a week he works in construction and demolition, a job he says he enjoys. On the weekends, he stays home with his kids, or bangs on the drum set that, for the past year, he has been teaching himself to play.
Before Roman was killed, Arnold went through the same routine every weekday morning. After kissing his wife and kids goodbye, he’d walk to where his primer-gray ’84 Honda Accord was parked on the street in front of the house, turn the thing on, and listen to the radio for about 10 minutes while the engine warmed up. "That 10 minutes always put me in a relaxed mood for the rest of the day," Arnold says. But that particular morning, he couldn’t make himself cross the open space between the house and the car. Finally, in desperation, he began humming the theme from Mission: Impossible.
In the days to follow, the humming ritual became his protective talisman. "I know it sounds stupid," he says, "but it helps me get into that car and go to work. I’ve done it every day since Trigger passed away. A lot of my homeboys have died," he continues. "And every one is a tragedy that hurts you. But Trigger passing away is different."
The funeral is scheduled for 7 p.m., Sunday, June 4. The 11-day lag time is caused by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office, which was overly busy and slow to release the body.
At 6:30, a half-dozen LAPD officers lean against their squad cars in the parking lot across the street from Dolores Mission Church. Inside the church, mourners tend to separate by gender. The women, along with a smattering of old men and children, fill the scarred wooden pews. Most of the men, gangsters prominently included, stand in a somber, dark-clad mass at the back of the sanctuary, near the door.