Lives of Immigrants in Texas Town Shattered By Tragic Shooting

by Joshua Brown
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Wilson Garcia and his family were immigrants from Latin America who settled near Cleveland, Texas. They had a lot of strength, worked very hard and treasured the bonds with their friends, family members and neighbors.

Garcia used a small down payment to buy a 1-acre plot of land in the Trails End neighborhood, which was around 60 miles away from Houston. He built a home on it where his family could live and his friends could come visit. The grassy area near the house made Garcia think of Honduras, the place he was born.

Johnny Ray Gibbs has known Garcia who comes from Honduras for a decade. According to Garcia, his home country is so beautiful. When Johnny asked him about his life in Cleveland, he said it’s also beautiful in there. But on April 28th, something devastating happened- an AR-style Rifle was fired; when authorities asked the neighbor named Francisco Oropeza to stop shooting, he went into Garcia’s home and killed five people.

At the shooting, Garcia’s wife Sonia and nine-year-old son Daniel were hurt, along with their family friends Diana (who was 21 years old), Jose Jonathan (18 years old) and his girlfriend Obdulia Julisa (29 years old). They’re all from Honduras.

People are honoring the victims of the shooting who either wanted a better life in America or sacrificed their own safety to save others. Garcia and his neighbors wondered if they and the place they worked hard to build would be the same again. Garcia said, “I can’t even find words for this terrible event; I feel like my soul has been taken away”, when talking with reporters about what happened.

Oropeza, aged 38, was taken into custody and put in jail for the murder charges he faced after four days of search.

Just prior to the shooting happened, Garcia (an electrician) and Guzman had a blessed event – they just welcomed their new baby son, Daniel. He is now added as one of three children in their ever-expanding family which also included a 2 ½ year old daughter and Ramiro Guzman’s wife with their 6 month old baby.

Garcia’s house was full of relatives and friends who were staying there on weekends. Shawn Crawford, from the other house nearby, said that Garcia and his family were very kind people. She also added that she had attended birthday parties and cookouts at Garcia’s home with her grandchildren. Germán Guzmán, 28 years old, brother of Guzman said that his sister had come to America nine years ago for helping their family.

Crawford, who lives in La Misión in Honduras, said there was no work around and last year when Guzman was pregnant, Garcia came to her house and asked if he could take a pink flower from her Yucca plant. This flower is said to be good for unborn babies. Crawford told him to take it whenever he saw the flower bloom. She also said that everyone used to help each other out in their neighborhood.

Living in Trails End isn’t always easy. People have to collect money to get the potholes on their streets fixed, since the county doesn’t take care of them like public roads. That’s why it’s so helpful for neighbors to help out each other!

A horrible tragedy occurred in the neighborhood. A man named Garcia asked his neighbor Oropeza if he could fire away from his house because his one-and-a-half month old baby was trying to sleep. Dale Tiller, who has lived in the area for thirteen years, said that despite all these unfortunate events, people still choose to live there because they take pride in having their own homes and striving for a better life.

Just one week before the shooting, Garcia was done transforming a carport into another room for his house in which he had lived for three years. There were still building materials laying around his front yard even after the shooting happened.

Tiller said that although there are problems around them, there are many good people in Trails End too.

Idalmy Hernandez (45 years old) mentioned that many immigrants had fought for owning their own home and Garcia told her that he felt like his dream was over after the shooting incident.

Hernandez from Honduras said that he was very sad. At a memorial event for Garcia in front of his house, 10 year-old Guillermo Tobon remembered playing football with Garcia’s son, Daniel the day before he died. They played for about 30 minutes until the school bus came. Soccer was Daniel’s favorite sport.

At a memorial for Daniel Garcia, there were flowers and stuffed animals as well as a letter which said: “You were the best friend and soccer teammate anyone could ask for. You will always be in our hearts.”

Manuela Lara, an owner of a Mexican food stand that was visited by Garcia’s family frequently, had to say that this event was very difficult because nothing like it ever happened before.

Osmán Velásquez, the father of Velásquez Alvarado, said his daughter had been living in the United States without any documents 8 years ago but recently got her U.S. residency status.

Jeffrison Rivera – husband of Velásquez Alvarado – posted a video on Carlos Eduardo Espina’s Facebook page and mentioned that Jonathan Cacerez was his nephew who looked after Molina Rivera’s two kids. Also, Molina only arrived in the US at least one year ago.

Rivera said two of his kids, one 9 months old and the other 6 years old, were protected by Velásquez Alvarado and Molina Rivera who hid them in a closet underneath a pile of clothes. Oropeza sadly made Rivera lose them without their mother. Lastly, four of the victims will be sent home to Honduras while Velásquez Alvarado will be buried in America.

Crawford said that the shooting and the comment by Texas’s Governor Greg Abbott, which called the five victims “illegal immigrants,” made people living in her neighborhood really scared. She was not sure if things will become normal again, like when neighbors used to have barbecues and walk around with their families.

She then expressed her hope for it to go back to being peaceful as that was the pleasant part of her area.

Marlon Gonzalez, who works with Associated Press in Tegucigalpa, Honduras gave news to the report. You can follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter for more updates; here is his link: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

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