Vigil held for victims of gang violence in Porterville


They sang, prayed and held candles all to remember the many lives that ended in the tragic tangle of gang violence.

"I lost my son, Leo Alvarado in 2011," said Nena Olmedo of Porterville. Olmedo rarely talks about Leo's murder. He was shot and killed at a Porterville motel. She says Leo was in the wrong place with the wrong crowd.

But for her, being in this place with this crowd is what feels right. "When I'm here, with them, and all these events, I talk about it and I get emotional and the pain comes back, it all comes back," Olmedo said. "But when it's all over and I'm home I feel this relief."

The group of mothers is also working to prevent kids from joining gang so other families don't have to hold vigil for them.

"We need to encourage them, inspire our children, so they can make right choices and I think good mentoring is so valuable," said MUAGV founder Mary Martinez. She founded the group ten years ago after her son, Frank, was killed. She says he was shot as part of a gang initiation.

"I look back on that day and it's still painful after 10 years," she said. "But my passion, god put it in my heart, to get up and do something, instead of burying myself in depression and crying."

These moms and other family members are getting support from south valley law enforcement. "Just to try, in every way we can, to keep our children out of gangs," said Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux. "And I think that them being here tonight, bringing that sense of awareness to our community is so important. It's brave and it takes courage on the part of the mothers to do so."

The moms are praying they don't have to welcome another parent to their group.

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