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
Frances struggles to rise from the rug, but all at once, fear is a huge animal sitting on her chest, smothering her back into place. Bola is with the graffiti crew, she thinks.
Frances begins to scream. “Estephanie!” she screams. “Where’s Bola? Find Bola!” Estephanie stumbles into her brother’s room. “He’s in here,” she yells back. “He’s asleep. What happened?” Only then does Frances’ hysteria calm slightly. Then, who?she wonders. While she rushes to get the younger kids ready for day care, the phone rings. It’s Gabby Guillen, one of her friends from the Homeboy office.
“Did you hear?” asks Gabby.
“I saw it on the news,” says Frances, “but they didn’t say a name . . .”
“It’s Magoo,” says Gabby.
During the workday the news spills out in fits and starts. Three crew members were in the white Homeboy truck at Fourth and Breed streets, painting out new tags on the wall of the Smart & Final, when two gunmen approached, their faces oddly shielded by brimmed straw hats. One crew member was off to the side stirring a bucket of paint, the second was in the truck filling out paperwork. The third member doing the painting: Magoo. A gunman shot him once in the back, twice in the head at close range. Miguel Gomez died on the sidewalk before the paramedics could arrive.
Two spontaneous shrines made of photos and candles have materialized at the shooting site and on the sidewalk in front of the Homeboy offices. All day Thursday, Bola scoots with a disconnected, desperate energy between the two shrines, lighting candle after candle.Frances’ demand: Luis must get counseling once he’s out of jail.
When a homeboy or homegirl dies — former or current — it’s traditional to hold a car wash to help pay for the cost of the burial. The car wash for Miguel Gomez is held on Sunday, June 27, in a parking lot across the street from the Homeboy office. Bola, little Julian and Estephanie are there all day, sponging off cars with Homeboy staff members. Frances mostly stays at home, fashioning scores of bows from strands of black satin ribbon printed with Magoo’s name. “I didn’t buy the ribbons,” she says. “Grumpy bought them.” By Grumpy, she means Gustavo Martinez, a muscular, bighearted former gang member who also works for Homeboy. For much of both of their lives, Martinez’s and Magoo’s gangs have been mortal enemies. In fact, one of Martinez’s closest boyhood friends was killed by Magoo’s gang. “But still, Grumpy was the person who bought the ribbons for Magoo’s wake,” says Frances. “That’s the miracle of Homeboy that’s hard to explain to somebody who’s never been through it.”
A rosary is held for Miguel Gomez on Wednesday night, June 30. He is buried the following afternoon. Father Greg presides over both services. Frances has always steadfastly refused to let her kids go to funerals of any kind. “They’re too young to be going to wakes,” she says. But this time she makes an exception — but only for Bola. “He needed closure,” she says.
The night of the rosary, mother and son sit quietly in the very last row of the chandelier-lit, formal chapel at Inglewood Cemetery Mortuary. Father Greg doesn’t spot them until the service ends as he walks among the mourners, dispensing hugs of consolation. By then, Frances is already headed outside. Bola is entirely alone. Boyle squats down in front of the boy, who is attempting blank-faced stoicism. “You know, when I saw you here tonight,” Boyle says, “it was the weirdest thing. All of a sudden, I could see your future so clearly. I see you with a great job. I see you happily married with kids. I saw me knowing your kids, and knowing your grandkids . . .”
As the priest speaks, whatever tears Bola has been holding back all week are now released in a silent, chest-heaving torrent.
“Bola, can you see it?” Boyle presses. “Can you see that wonderful future?”
After several long beats, Bola nods, then manages a near-inaudible whisper.
“Yeah,” he whispers. “I can.”Postscript: As of July 13, Luis’ parole hold remains in place.