One year after East Palo Alto shooting, families of murder victims demand justice

 

One year after the fatal shooting of Eduardo “Lalo” Sandoval and Mario Mendez at an East Palo Alto party, their families and friends marched in the streets, demanding justice.

In the early hours of Oct. 14, 2018, a fight broke out at the Pulgas Avenue party and someone fired shots, injuring two people and killing Sandoval and Mendez. That night, Veronica Sandoval lost her son Lalo, 22, and Leslie Vidales lost her brother Mario, 23. Both families are coping with the loss of their loved ones and the fact that no arrests have yet been made, even a year later.

“We’re still very much in disbelief that he lost his life,” Vidales said. She described via Facebook messenger her brother as caring, lighthearted and loved by many. Weeks after his shooting, she moved out of state to support her mother and has not been back since. “It’s been so hard to come to the conclusion that we’ll never see him laughing, dancing and just being himself. We try not to mourn his loss but to celebrate his life.”

Their murders were two of three murders in 2018 in East Palo Alto and came as a shock to a community, which had seen a decrease in murders from 42 in 1992 to just one in 2017.

On Oct 13 — one year after the fatal shooting — family and friends marched from the St. Francis of Assisi Church on Bay Road to the East Palo Alto Police Department.

The crowd wore t-shirts and black ribbons with the faces of the slain young men. Many held white balloons and colorful signs. A large white banner read, “Enough is enough. We have a killer among our community.”

Kenia Najar, from the local advocacy group, Youth United for Community Action, held a megaphone and directed chants that filled the air that Sunday afternoon: “Solve this case!” and “Justice for Lalo, justice for Mario!” Cars honked in support as the crowd marched towards the police department.

Also in attendance at the march were East Palo Alto Mayor Lisa Gauthier and Council Member Ruben Abrica along with representatives from advocacy group Mothers Against Murder.

In May, MAM offered a $5,000 reward for information about the case. Now, the reward has doubled to $10,000, and they are asking people with information to come forward and speak with police.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said he was grateful to everyone for attending the march.

“We know there are people who are out there who know more than they’ve told us,” said Wagstaffe. “If they can come forward to the police department, they can bring it to us and then we can go into court and seek justice.”

Vidales said that the case should have been solved by now, especially because it’s “not a secret” who the gunman is.

While Vidales and her family could not be there at the march, she thanked everyone who showed up.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Veronica Barries at 650-853-7248, send an anonymous text or voicemail to 650-409-6792, or send an anonymous email to epa@tipnow.org.