A group of nearly 15 teenagers gathered Tuesday evening on Van Nuys Boulevard by Pacoima Charter Elementary to hold a vigil for their friend and schoolmate Willy Barrios, who was found dead there Monday morning.
“This wasn’t a regular murder; this was some guys wanting to start something,” one of them said.
They all said they knew Barrios from César E. Chávez Learning Academies, where he attended the Academy of Science Exploration, and described Barrios as a respectful kid who always looked after his two younger brothers. They said he sometimes sold chips and candy out of his backpack to
financially help out his mother, and every day after school he would walk or ride a scooter to San Fernando High School to visit his girlfriend.
As far as they all knew, Barrios was not in any gang, they said. They cannot understand why he would be targeted.
According to police, Barrios was shot in the head with a semiautomatic weapon by two suspects who fled on foot.
No suspect has been arrested, and police are still investigating the case.
A woman at the vigil gave her version of the story, saying the boy was visiting his cousin, woke up late, and stopped by the nearby 7-Eleven store nearby to buy something to drink before heading home on foot. As he left the store he noticed two guys following him so he ran, fell, and that is when the murderers killed him.
The teenagers had a different story.
According to one of the teenagers who said to have known Barrios since middle school, police detectives told the group gathered at the vigil that Barrios was drinking at his cousin’s house. His cousin fell asleep, and Barrios, drunk and bored, walked across the street to David M Gonzales Park where he fell asleep drunk. Barrios was then taken by homeless persons who saw him passed out drunk to Los Angeles Fire Station 98, where he woke up startled and fled. A few minutes later, Barrios was killed.
Neither the Los Angeles Police Department or Fire Department would confirm that Barrios was ever at the Fire Station.
At the scene, community members built a memorial of flowers and candles.
Notes are posted on a lamp post saying “You will be missed” and graffiti markings on the ground read “We Love You Risk Rest in Peace.” Although the nicknames “Risk” and “Risky” are used, it could not be confirmed that Barrios went by those names.
“People in the community does care,” said a young mother as she rushed away after dropping off half a dozen white candles. Nearby, one of the teen’s father was waiting in his car in case anyone needed a ride, not wanting them to walk home.
The teens seemed sad about losing their friend, but not something out
of the ordinary.
“He’s not the first, and he’s not the last one,” they said.