SPRINGDALE -- The mariachi band had just finished a funeral song when a woman started wailing. Her family and friends underneath the green funeral tent tried to comfort her, but she pushed them away. She walked a few yards away, beside some older tombstones, and wept.
A crowd of people wrapped around the gravesite of Jimmy Rodriguez. His coffin was open for the last time, and the air was thick with the sticky smell of flowers and dirt.
Springdale police are looking to increase staff at the police department, but also to expand children’s, including the Gang Resistance Education And Training program, to keep kids out of gangs, spokesman Derek Hudson said. That program has operated in Springdale for years and has been successful, he said. For information on the program, great-online.org.
Source: Springdale Police Department
At a glance
Springdale police say they have been fighting gang activity for years, but recent violent events have spotlighted gang crimes.
• March 13, 2015 — Fabian Rodriguez, 18, is shot and dies at a hospital.
• March 14-15 — Police arrest two boys after they drove by a house on Pierce Avenue and shot at it.
• March 16 — Hector Saul Ramos, 17, is charged with shooting Fabian Rodriguez and two other people, both of whom survived.
• March 19 — Police arrest another boy, 17, in connection with the shooting at the Pierce Avenue house. Separately, another boy, Luis Angel Perea, 17, was arrested in connection with stealing the gun that ended up used in the drive-by shooting.
• April 11 — Jimmy Rodriguez, 20, is shot in a drive-by shooting and dies at Northwest Medical Center-Springdale. Police arrest a 13-year-old boy connected to the crime. The name of the boy is not being released due to his age.
• April 12 — Police arrest Jose Delatorre, 18, in connection with the shooting of Jimmy Rodriguez.
• April 13 — Police track two suspects — Rodolfo Martinez, 18, and Giovanni Vasquez-Sanchez, 17 — to Hartman, Ark., where they are arrested. Martinez is believed to be the man who shot Jimmy Rodriguez, according to a police news release. Vasquez-Sanchez drove the vehicle, police said.
Source: Staff Reports
A peace march to show unity in Springdale is planned for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Luther George-Grove Park, said Irvin Camacho, organizer and activist. “Our hope is having a march and walking in unity…shows people that people are united and we aren’t going to let this kind of violent thing happen again,” said Camacho. Attendees can also donate to help cover funeral costs for the families of the two shooting victims, he said.
Source: Irvin Camacho
Rodriguez, 20, of 1901 W. Shady Grove Road in Springdale was shot dead at 11:20 a.m. April 11 at his uncle's house at 609 Savage St. The shooting has created a community call-to-action as residents and police want to prevent more gang violence.
Rodriguez, who was born in Fayetteville, was the third child of eight, his father said. He was the child who encouraged his sisters, who was quick with a joke and who loved his mother. He got a tattoo on his neck with his mother's name, Maria. He had another tattoo with his father's name, Martin.
He made sure his sisters went to an after-school program meant to help keep them stay in school, said Christina Herbold, instructor facilitator at Springdale Public Schools.
His siblings looked up to him, said his sister Stacy, 15. "He was a wonderful brother," Stacy said.
Jimmy Rodriguez worked a full-time job mowing yards with his uncle and a part-time job cleaning at a school, his uncle, Juan Rodriguez, said. The young man hoped to save enough money to move into an apartment with his girlfriend, who is two months pregnant, his family said. He worked hard and didn't have time for gangs, his uncle said.
Herbold had planned for Jimmy Rodriguez to speak to schoolchildren about staying on the right path, staying in school and not hanging out with the wrong people, she said. She saw him last week and was still shocked he was gone, she said.
"I know he had turned his life around," Herbold said.
In high school, Jimmy Rodriguez had hung out with students known to be in gangs, Stacy said. He wore baggy clothing, but he wasn't in a gang, his family and friends said. Springdale Police Department spokesman Derek Hudson said he wasn't sure if Rodriguez was in a gang.
The Rodriguez kids all felt pressure to join gangs, but none did, Stacy said. Stacy has been asked about being in a gang, too, but she wants to be different and not in a gang, she said. Jimmy Rodriguez dropped out of high school because he was tired of fighting with gang members, his father said.
"Gangs were always bothering my kids, especially a gang called 'Savage,' but (my children) always said they wanted no trouble; to leave them alone," Martin Rodriguez said.
On Thursday morning, just before the graveside service, hundreds of people filed into St. Raphael Catholic Church in Springdale to hear Associate Pastor Juan Guido talk about Jimmy Rodriguez and the gang violence in Springdale. People wept openly. At least 30 people wore or held T-shirts printed with a picture of Jimmy Rodriguez that read "Only God can judge me."
Guido touched the draped coffin at the front of the church, then touched his chest and pointed skyward. He didn't know what the shooters of Jimmy Rodriguez were thinking when they shot him, but now people have a choice, he said. Jimmy Rodriguez's death could instigate peace and love, Guido said. His death should not be in vain.
"We can determine what kind of generation we are going to be," Guido said. "Are we going to be the generation of hate and violence?"
They used to hang out
The Friday before her brother was shot, Stacy dreamed it. She dreamed he called her from the hospital, she said. Her family went to the hospital and he was laughing, just like he always did. He was always smiling, joking and laughing, his family said.
Stacy thought at the time the dream meant her brother would be fine, she said. The next morning, he was shot and died.
The boys who shot Stacy's brother were looking for someone else, not Jimmy Rodriguez, police records show. Four teenagers armed themselves and went for a drive in a blue Ford Focus. When they couldn't find a gang member nicknamed "Aimer," they ended up shooting Jimmy Rodriguez instead, according to a police report.
The teens drove by, then came back to ask Jimmy Rodriguez and his cousins if they were in a gang, according to reports.
Two people "laughed off the question" and another said "SD," according to the affidavit. The teens pulled out a silver handgun and fired three times, according to an affidavit. Jimmy Rodriguez's cousins hit the ground, but Jimmy Rodriguez twisted away, his father said. He was shot in his side.
No one else was hurt, police said. A police report shows Jimmy Rodriguez was shot once. He was rushed to Northwest Medical Center-Springdale where he died, Hudson said. The family doesn't know if he ever woke up, Stacy said.
One of the teenagers in the car used to be friends with Jimmy Rodriguez. They used to hang out, Stacy said. Now, Jose Delatorre, 18, is expected to be charged as an accomplice to his friend's murder, police said. During an interview with police, Delatorre said he regretted the death of Jimmy Rodriguez, according to a preliminary report.
Jimmy Rodriguez's death is the second gang-related, fatal shooting within a month in the same neighborhood. A few blocks away, Fabian Rodriguez, 18, was shot at 3:21 a.m. March 13 at 32 Applegate Drive. He died at the hospital.
Jimmy Rodriguez is not closely related, if at all, to Fabian Rodriguez, but their families are from the same small town, La Caja Guanajuato in Mexico. Police have said both deaths are linked to gang activity.
After Jimmy Rodriguez was shot, police arrested a 13-year-old boy the same day. By Monday, police had found and arrested all the shooting suspects: Delatorre, Giovanni Vasquez-Sanchez, 18, who police say drove the vehicle, and Rodolfo Martinez, 18, who police say shot Jimmy Rodriguez.
Martinez has been charged with capital murder and engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, said Matt Durrett, Washington County prosecuting attorney. Vasquez-Sanchez is charged as an adult with accomplice to capital murder and engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise.
Charges against Delatorre are pending, Durrett said.
Community, police respond
The shooting deaths of Jimmy Rodriguez and Fabian Rodriguez have caused a backlash against gang activity and crime.
"Both shootings happened in a two minute walking distance," said Irvin Camacho, an activist who is organizing a peace march for Tuesday night. "It's right there. It's my neighborhood."
Camacho was Jimmy Rodriguez's former neighbor. Now, Camacho lives near the same community where both shootings occurred.
Hudson said a handful of people were causing most of the crime. Most people in the community are good, he said. Camacho said that included Jimmy Rodriguez.
"A lot of people loved him for how good he was," he said.
Hundreds of people are expected to attend the march at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Luther George-Grove Street park, Camacho said.
"The image that we are trying to get: The community united, not just Latinos," Camacho said. "We need to quit dividing ourselves based on race, that's a horrible thing to do."
Springdale is not a haven for crime, Camacho said. The shootings are isolated incidents, he said.
At the same time, Police Chief Kathy O'Kelley is working with Mayor Doug Sprouse on a plan that could mean more police officers, Hudson said. The Police Department's No. 1 problem is staffing, he said.
Sprouse did not return a phone call asking about the possible changes by deadline Friday. When asked where police are in restarting a crime suppression unit, O'Kelley said in email "officers are deployed in directed patrols to address gang-related issues."
Police also have beefed up patrols and reached out to the Hispanic community, Hudson said. Some residents said they feel police have ignored them and treated them poorly. Police haven't taken complaints seriously in the past, said Daniela Toruno, who lives on Ewalt Avenue near Jones Elementary School.
"I don't even know if this extra patrol is happening," Toruno said. "It feels like they tell you they are doing stuff, but they are not."
People go to police with ideas, but often feel O'Kelley is not listening, Camacho said. There is a lot of tension in the neighborhood, he said.
Police are open with the public and are working hard to stop the cycle of gang violence, Hudson said. Even so, some information can't be released because of open investigations and safety concerns, he and O'Kelley said.
For example, police will not release information about what gangs are in Springdale or what signs or colors are associated with the gangs, Hudson said. Gang members want publicity and might react with more violence if information is released, he said.
Police have released some general information: Springdale gang members generally are 13 to 20 years old, and a lot of those teenagers are not part of nationally recognized gangs, Hudson said.
To build trust, police have met with the Hispanic community twice but want those meetings to be small and private, Hudson said. Seeing TV vans at meetings may scare off residents, he said. Police canceled one meeting with community members earlier this week after media began asking questions.
But, not everyone is scared. Stacy stood near her brother's grave as it was being covered with dirt and said she used to be scared. She used to be scared of gangs, she said. She doesn't feel afraid anymore.
NW News on 04/19/2015
Print Headline: Community loses another son