Fresno family takes bold stand against gang violence

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Fresno family is taking a bold stand against gang violence after their mother was shot and killed while sleeping on the couch in her own home.

The Alvarez family wants everyone to know they too are victims. They say they're tired of living like prisoners in their own neighborhoods.

"We want justice," said Maura Leon. "We can never be one. They took that from us. They took our rock, that's how we feel."

Leon and her family brought out dozens of neighbors and police to their Southeast Fresno home Thursday. That's where their mother, 51-year-old Josefina Alvarez, was shot and killed in late January.

Leon says the gang member responsible is still on the streets in her neighborhood. "I just want them to remember before they became gang members, what my mother did for them," she said.

Leon says Josefina was the neighborhood mother, the protector. She always welcomed people into her home and fed them.

"I know what they're going through," said Marina Rios, whose oldest son was killed last year. "I know what they're feeling."

Rios is standing with the Alvarez family. Her son, 19-year-old Desmend Rios, was stabbed to death last September at a party in Fresno County.

She says he was never involved in gangs, but a gang member took his life. "The people or person that did this didn't just murder the victim," Rios said. "They murdered the whole family."

Fresno police say this is what's needed. "People need to call us when a crime is committed," said Lt. Jose Garza. "They need to tell us where there's a problem location, a house, a gang house that's involved in criminal activity. We need to know that information for us to be able to do something about it."

The Alvarez family hopes massive photos of Josefina hanging in a tree outside the home will serve as reminders to the neighborhood, to the shooters, that they're not afraid anymore. "From the bottom of my heart, I forgive them," Leon said.

Fresno police recently conducted a massive gang suppression effort that put hundreds of gang members in jail. They say it helps lower crime rates but they still need the community to help make a larger dent in this serious issue.

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