It’s been like this for a week: a classmate recalls the boy’s smile, or a joke he used to tell, or how much he liked tortas, and then there’s laughter, followed by tears.
On Tuesday, friends and classmates of a 13-year-old boy, who, police said, was fatally shot in the back of the head, gathered in a circle at the edge of the basketball courts at Millswood Middle School. They were making plans and hanging posters, bright-colored signs adorned with angel wings and hearts, asking their peers to donate cash to help supplement funeral costs.
The boy, identified by friends and neighbors as Eduardo “Lalo” Lagunas, died Saturday night in his hospital bed.
His death is being investigated by Lodi police as a homicide – making him among the youngest such victims in the history of the city, police said.
Eduardo was shot Feb. 17 in the 900 block of South Garfield Street. Detectives are investigating whether his slaying is related to a shooting the night before, in which two young men were wounded about 2 miles away while standing on a front porch of a house in the 700 block of North Church Street, said police spokesman Lt. Sierra Brucia.
That case, Brucia said, was gang-related – the result of conflict between the Norteños and Sureños. The case of the teen’s killing was less clear. Detectives are seeking the public’s help in gathering information in the boy’s death.
Eduardo has not been formally identified by police or the coroner.
His friends said Eduardo was friendly and funny, not the kind of kid expected to get caught up in gang violence.
But a 13-year-old classmate said Eduardo sometimes hung around a tougher crowd, seeking protection. He recalled a time when the two were forced to run and hide from a grown man, a member of a gang. The Sacramento Bee is withholding the name of the classmate because of the nature of the crime.
“We were running and he looked at me and said, ‘Don’t get caught up in this; don’t be like me,’ ” he said, adding that Eduardo had told him he was scared for himself and his family.
“And now he’s dead,” the 13-year-old said. “He got shot in the head and he didn’t deserve it.”
Neighbors along South Garfield Street recalled hearing gunshots after midnight the night Eduardo was injured, with stray bullets landing in courtyards and nicking fences of nearby apartments.
Soon after, police said, the boy was dropped off, likely by friends, at Lodi Memorial Hospital with a gunshot wound to the back of his head. Hospital workers wrote down the license plate number of the vehicle that dropped the boy off, and it was found later in the 400 block of East Locust Street in Lodi and searched by police.
Police declined to identify the type of gun used in the teen’s killing.
Counseling services were being offered to students who needed them at Millswood Middle School. Several of the boy’s classmates will gather in the courtyard Wednesday to release balloons in his honor.
Anyone with information about the case has been asked to contact Lodi Police Detective Elias Ambriz at (209) 333-6881 or leave anonymous tips with Lodi Area Crime Stoppers at (209) 333-6771.
Call The Bee’s Marissa Lang at (916) 321-1038. Follow her on Twitter at @Marissa_Jae.