By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Thrilled, Frances grabs the offer right away.
On July 29, Frances starts calling Luis’ P.O. again. She tries several numbers and finally reaches a parole officer named Tucker who, after checking his computer, reports that, yes, Luis did discharge on the 2nd of July. “And, according to the law, your husband’s hold has to be lifted three working days after his parole is completed,” Tucker says pleasantly. Frances is confused. This means the hold should have
38 gone off no later than Wednesday, July 7 — 22 days ago. “Well, unfortunately, it looks like your husband’s P.O. went on vacation,” Tucker explains. But she shouldn’t worry, he says, he’ll go into the system and make the change immediately. “The hold will be gone by no later than Saturday, July 31, I guarantee it.”
The hold is not lifted on Saturday. Nor is it lifted on Sunday. Or Monday, when Frances is so busy with the transition to her new product business that she decides she will give Tucker one more week before she calls again.
The new job has sent her frame of mind into a visible upswing and, at midweek, Frances is feeling so lighthearted that she decides to play matchmaker with her jogging partner, Beatrice. She introduces her to a guy from the graffiti-removal crew named Art Casas, whom Frances has decided is particularly nice. The two go out on Friday night, and both report that they have really hit it off. On Saturday night, the newly minted couple persuades yenta Frances to go with them to a comedy show at the Ice House in Pasadena. “And we had the best time,” says Frances. “The best time!”
On Monday, Frances calls the parole office again. This time, she reaches yet another P.O., who again promises that all will be put right in a matter of hours. “We don’t want any civil suits!” the P.O. says in a joking tone, but Frances doesn’t laugh.
By Tuesday morning, the parole hold has been lifted, but there is still the “NO BAIL” designation next to Luis’ name. “I can’t believe it!” fumes Frances. But it’s nearly noon, and she is late to meet Beatrice for a quick lunch. In the parking lot behind the office, she spots Art and asks him if he wants to come too. He declines, saying he has to return to a graffiti-cleanup site. “Tell my girl I’ll call her later,” he says.
At lunch, Frances and Beatrice whisper and giggle like schoolgirls. Art might be the real thing, Beatrice says. “These two days with him have been better than the whole four years with my baby’s father.”
At 12:50, lunch is finished, and Frances is driving down First Street in the direction of the office when she spots the yellow police tape from a half-block away. “It’s one of us,” she thinks. She parks the van and runs toward the crowd of staff members who mill in a dazed cluster outside on the sidewalk. “What happened?” she asks. Lisa Parra, a young woman who assists with the tattoo-removal program, answers distractedly, “Somebody shot Art.”
“Is he all right?”
Another staffer, Lu-Lu Rivera, shakes his head. “He was breathing at first. But he’s dead.” By now, Beatrice has reached the group and hears this last. “NO, NO, NO!” she screams. “NO! NO!”
Frances begins to shake uncontrollably.
The shooting itself is stunning in its brutal recklessness. At 12 noon, the white truck with the blue Homeboy Graffiti Removal logo drives east on First Street, with Art as its sole occupant. He stops at a red light at the intersection of First and Cummings, a half-block from Hollenbeck police station. A car carrying two gang members pulls up, and the passenger-side occupant lights up the truck with eight rapid shots. Only one bullet connects, but it’s enough.
Reflexively, Frances calls home and blurts the news to Estephanie, who in turn tells Bola. “Not again” is all he says. Then he goes into the bedroom, shuts the door, and does not come out for the rest of the day. What Frances does not say, what she cannot even think, is that Bola could easily have been in that truck with Art. A month ago, Bola and his 14-year-old cousin, Anthony, started going out with the graffiti crews again, most often with Art and his work partner, Richard Munoz. But, after Bola’s tutoring began, Frances pulled him off graffiti cleanup, telling him he could go back once he got his schoolwork a little more under control.
“I don’t know how people like Art’s mother ever get through it,” Frances says. “I would die. I mean that, really. My heart would die.”
Make-over: Erin Echevarria,
Gloria Munoz and Lupe Garnica
take their picture with Gloria’s
cell phone at Platicas day
at the beach.
Over the next week, events unfurl with a rhythm similar to that which followed Magoo’s death. The news crews camp out at the Homeboy office for a day or two. The staff organizes the fund-raising car wash. The wake is on Monday, August 9; the burial, the next morning. The main difference is that, after this shooting, Father Greg announces he is shutting down the entire Homeboy Graffiti Removal business, although city officials plead with him not to.
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