Comfort for family of Madera teen gunned down for colors

FRESNO, Calif.

Carlos Ponce's family is finding solace in the support coming from all over the community.

Ponce's mother is having an especially hard time after a gang member murdered her 15-year-old simply because of the colors he was wearing.

But police say her son was no gangbanger, and that may be why the community is stepping up to try and ease the burden on the family. Carlos Ponce lives on in 15 years' worth of pictures and the memories he created.

In a pink tie and corsage, he helped his cousin celebrate her quinceanera just weeks before his death.

"I think that's the only thing I can keep in my mind is that he was with me that day and it was so special," said the cousin, Carmen Fuentes.

"It's just sad that he had to be taken away right now," said another cousin who didn't want to be name for fear of gang retribution. "It's just sad, man."

Ponce's family is still coming to grips with his murder in what police believe was a mistaken act of gang violence. But they're not dealing with it alone.

Dozens of friends gathered on the corner of Cleveland and Lake all day Thursday, scrubbing cars to earn money for a proper burial. The touching tribute is putting smiles on family members' faces -- a job formerly left to Carlos.

"You know, just seeing all these people here, my little sister, her friends, all our little cousins that we grew up with, they're right here helping out, so it's a good feeling," said the fearful cousin.

Police also have a good feeling about the prospects of cracking the case. Evidence collected at the scene points to a single suspect. And while officers aren't ready to make an arrest, they're confident the suspect won't pose any further danger to the community.

"In my experience, generally after they do something like this, they go more into hiding and trying to get away as opposed to looking for more targets," said Dan Foss, a Madera Police detective.

A task force of Madera police is also patrolling the area in unmarked vehicles, looking for suspicious activity.

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