Reflections on a Tragedy

Jan. 30, 2012 / By

The family of slain toddler Elijah Bañuelos held a carwash January 29 to raise funeral funds. The boy’s aunt, Christina Lozano, said the family was trying to raise "enough to send him out like an angel. He was an angel and now we have to send him out like one." (Photo: Tony Aguilar, Coachella Unincorporated)

Elijah Bañuelos died January 25 after being shot in the head while standing in an open garage with his father and another man in Coachella’s Rancho Mariposa neighborhood. He would have been three years old in April. Limited details have been released by authorities and family members. Coachella Unincorporated reporters share their thoughts on this tragedy that has left the community in shock.

Not Supposed to Happen

Something like this isn’t supposed to happen. No parent should have to bury their child, much less a child three months short of their third birthday. Home is where the heart is, especially for the Latino community.  To be robbed of precious life in the comforts of your home truly drives a spear through the soul of the large Latino community of Coachella.  Like many Eastern Coachella Valley communities, Coachella lacks ample outdoor recreational activities and facilities.  Many of these residents turn to the comforts of their own homes for leisure activities. But when a crime as heinous as this happens in a home, it serves as further proof that a once quiet city of humble working class citizens is coming under siege by shameless monsters.

-Tony Aguilar, 21, Thermal (College of the Desert)

Angry, Sorrowful, Shocked and Scared

I do not know if the crime in Coachella has escalated, or if I have come to the age when people will not sugarcoat anything. I do not know the hard cold facts, but in my opinion, the crime has gotten worse in my very own community. In the past two years, I have heard of at least four deaths of teenagers that I once had for a class or two. That is not normal. For some reason, our community has adapted into this culture that crime in the community is common; some say it may be due to gang violence. Though, when an innocent life is taken away after only two years on earth, people start to realize how unsafe our community is. This tragic news, about two-year-old Elijah Bañuelos and two injured men has left the community angry, sorrowful, shocked, and scared for their families and their own lives.

 Alejandra Alarcon, 17, Coachella (Coachella Valley High School)

Why Did This Happen in our City?

Over the course of the years living in Coachella and of all the shootings I have heard about in those years, this shooting, the shooting of the two-year-old boy is by far one of the most impacting ones to me. Not only because this victim was an innocent baby boy, but because this occurred a couple of blocks away from where my family and I live. As I heard the news in my government class on Thursday, I was completely shocked that even though it had occurred close to my home, I had been so completely unaware. I couldn’t help but reflect upon why someone would do that and wonder why this happened in our city. I feel helpless when hearing about these kinds of tragic deaths when innocent people die.

– Maricruz Cabrera, 18, Coachella (Coachella Valley High School)

Tragic and Heartbreaking

The incident that occurred late on January 25, ending in the death of a child is tragic, it is heartbreaking. I could not know the enormous amount of grief that has piled up on the doorstep of this little boy’s family, just the very thought of it leaves me a bit staggered. This happened in a neighborhood filled with families, filled with children, and filled with amity. It leaves me with a sense of anger and frustration knowing this could happen, and that it has happened in my hometown. People should have the right to live at home comfortably and peacefully, without fear. I understand death is a part of life, but no parent should ever bury their child. An innocent life was taken without warning, and my thoughts and prayers are with this family.

-Ivan Delgado, 20, Coachella (College of the Desert)

A Terrified and Grief-Stricken Community

Earlier this week, a two-year-old boy was fatally shot and two others were wounded in a drive by shooting in the Redondo Sur/ Rancho Mariposa community.  As a young person growing up in Coachella, this incident makes me feel scared. What was a joyful community of parents and their children is now a terrified and grief-stricken community.  There’s no escaping the fact that there is violence in our city. Tragedies like this do happen. This makes me wonder if we’re safe living in this city. Are we safe? We’re never safe no matter where we live. Tragedies will always happen no matter where we go. All we can do is take life day by day and hope. Hope that things like this won’t happen to us. Hope that we can all live safe without having to worry about our safety and our kids’ safety. Hope that we can look forward to a better tomorrow.

-Johnny Flores, 15, Coachella (Xavier College Prep)

Truly a Tragedy

To have an innocent life lost from this planet is a dreadful thing, even more so when that innocent life hasn’t even begun to really LIVE. When I heard about this story, my jaw dropped to floor and all I could think about were my own siblings. Though not as young, they are young enough to not know how cruel this world can be; I could only imagine how devastated the family of the two-year-old must feel. Another shocking aspect of this story is where it occurred. In the pictures that were shown, the house where the shooting took place looked like a really nice house. The entire neighborhood looked nice, with neatly trimmed lawns and clean streets, which got me thinking an event like this can happen anywhere.  My sense of security has lowered a bit. It also got me thinking what the Coachella police or Mayor Eduardo Garcia are planning to do to take on this issue. Overall, this was truly a tragedy and has gotten the residents of Coachella truly thinking on just how safe our neighborhoods really are.
-Rogelio Montaño, 17, Coachella (Coachella Valley High School)

Everyone is Affected

Being a resident of Coachella, this is very shocking. My heart goes out to the family on their loss.  A child should not be involved in any violence.  I hope this is a big eye-opener to everybody in the community and that everyone is being affected by this.  It is just sad a little boy’s life had to be taken like this.
– Santos Reyes, 17, Coachella (Coachella Valley High School)


Coachella Unincorporated

Coachella Unincorporated is a Youth Media Startup in the East Coachella Valley, funded by the Building Healthy Communities Initiative of The California Endowment and operated by New America Media in San Francisco. The purpose of the project is to report on issues in the community that can bring about change. Coachella Unincorporated refers to the region youth journalists cover but also to the unincorporated communities of the Eastern Valley with the idea to “incorporate” the East Valley into the mainstream Coachella Valley mindset.