Originally published 1/31/2007
Alejandro Villalobos wasn't killed over a drug deal or for flashing a gang sign, according to his family. He wasn't killed for wearing the wrong colored shirt on the wrong block, they said, nor for disrespecting somebody's girl.
But he may have been killed, his family said, because one of his friends was speaking Spanish around the wrong crowd.
The 23-year-old father of a young boy was gunned down early Saturday as he left a North Natomas house party with two of his brothers and a friend, police said. Two alleged gang members have been charged in his death, one of whom was arrested with a sawed-off shotgun.
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Gilbert Villalobos -- who is not related to the victim -- and Anthony Pruitt, both 20 years old, did not enter pleas during a brief arraignment in Sacramento County court Tuesday. They are being held without bail. Pruitt's attorney, Mike Wise, said his client has never been arrested before and that "everybody is completely shocked by the allegations."
"He adamantly denies that he just walked up and shot somebody," Wise said.
According to police, Alejandro Villalobos, his brothers and a friend were leaving a party on Burberry Way about 1 a.m. Saturday when someone opened fire on the group. Villalobos was struck once and died as his brothers tried to drive him to a hospital.
Investigators labeled the homicide gang-related but said the victim was not a gang member. A Sacramento Police Department spokesman would not discuss the motive behind the attack, noting detectives were still investigating.
Villalobos' brothers said the shooting broke out after one of their friends greeted another man in Spanish as they left the party. Israel Villalobos, 28, said the other man told the friend not to speak Spanish at the party and that he replied, "Do you have a problem with us being Mexican?"
The other man said he didn't have a problem, but a few seconds later, the Villalobos brothers and their friend were fired upon as they walked to their car, Israel Villalobos said.
Villalobos' parents moved to California from Monterrey, Mexico, about 30 years ago. Juan Villalobos, Alejandro's father, said he taught his sons both Spanish and English so they would always remember their heritage.
"I will not deny my past, that I am Mexican," he said.
After what happened Saturday, his other sons are left wondering whether their Mexican heritage played a role in Alejandro's killing.
"You don't know how painful it feels," Israel Villalobos said, standing in a hallway in his parents' home in the Robla neighborhood of Sacramento. "Now we have to worry about his little boy."
Israel Villalobos said he was involved in gangs as a teen, surviving a shooting when he was 18. But he said he has turned himself around and was trying to act as a role model for his younger brother.
The older brother said the pair would leave home around 4 a.m. seven days a week for their jobs as unionized painters at a Lake Tahoe-area ski resort.
"He looked up to me, but he didn't follow in my gang footsteps," Israel Villalobos said.
Now, the man who wanted his little brother to avoid trouble is inconsolable, breaking down as he spoke of the doting father who took his son, Geovanni, to Chuck E. Cheese's every payday.
"I should have never gone to that party, I should have never said anything," he said. "The first thing that came to my mind was revenge, but that won't bring my brother back."
Villalobos' other brother, Juan, 31, described Alejandro as "a good person at the prime of his life."
"Now there are so many kids with guns, so many who don't understand their actions," he said. "They go out to a party and you add liquor and they can't bear the burden of the moment."
An entire wall in the Villalobos' living room is adorned with a collage of photographs, most showing Alejandro, his son and his former girlfriend, Francine Guzman. At one end of the display is a Valentine's Day card Alejandro wrote to his mother.
"Thanks so much 4 everything," the young man wrote. "I love you so much for it cause without you I wouldn't be the man I am 2day!"