DETROIT — Police made their presence known Monday evening in southwest Detroit as authorities prepared for possible retaliation for Sunday’s fatal shooting of a 19-year-old by another man at the annual Cinco de Mayo parade.
As police cars cruised and patrolled nearby streets, about 50 or 60 people, most of them young, gathered around a makeshift memorial of lighted candles, balloons and stuffed animals where Andres DeJesus was shot. A police car sat on the corner across from the memorial, monitoring the crowd.
Police spokesman Adam Madera said an extra police presence was already planned for Cinco de Mayo festivities in Mexicantown on Monday, but officers will be especially vigilant now. Police gang intelligence and high-crime units joined regular patrols.
Madera said investigators haven’t confirmed the shooting to be gang-related, but police said DeJesus has had an affiliation with the Latin Counts. His aunt, Aurora Garcia, said he hadn’t been with the gang since he was 13.
According to the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office, DeJesus died of a gunshot wound to the chest.
“I don’t know anybody who could be that cold,” Garcia, 39, said Monday. “This violence is not doing anything. It’s tearing everybody apart.”
Detroit police arrested a 24-year-old suspect at 1:15 p.m. Sunday, but have not released his name. He is being held at the Detroit Detention Center. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office said Monday that it has received a warrant request that is being reviewed in this case.
Live music, dancing and food are among festivities planned at several bars and restaurants during the holiday celebrating Mexican heritage. Cecilia Benedict, general manager of Armando’s Mexican Restaurant, said the shooting is “very sad,” but that by Monday afternoon, the restaurant was already crowded, and live entertainment was to proceed as planned.
Benedict said Sunday’s shooting did affect business at her restaurant, which is a few blocks away from where the shooting occurred. The parade was canceled about an hour after it started.
Angela Ramirez, 22, lives on Lansing Street, close to where the shooting happened.
“I just don’t feel safe over here,” she said Monday night. “There’s always something bad happening over here.”
Ramirez said the area is usually lively around Cinco De Mayo, but that it’s noticeably somber this year.
“It’s kind of hard to celebrate when something like this happens,” she said. “People (are) closing up early tonight.”
DeJesus was shot shortly after 1 p.m. Sunday near crowds in front of Brown’s Bun Bakery. He died at a nearby hospital, police said.
“There apparently was an argument between the victim and the suspect’s family, which escalated to the shooting,” Madera said Sunday. The officer said it appeared the shooter was sticking up for a member of his family when the shot was fired.
Police said the suspect has a license to carry a concealed pistol in Michigan.
Angel DeJesus, 24, a friend of Andres DeJesus but not a relative, said Monday that Sunday’s violence stemmed from a conflict during a previous Cinco de Mayo. The parade draws large crowds from area neighborhoods.
“Anybody who is looking for anybody will find them on Cinco de Mayo,” she said.
She said the neighborhood where she lives, which is walking distance from where the shooting occurred, has become increasingly violent. Two days earlier, people were standing on her porch, firing shots into her home, Angel DeJesus said. She said she doesn’t know why the person shot into her home, and that no one was injured.
“It’s all the time, for nothing,” she said of the violence.
Garcia said Andres DeJesus started a group last year called Always Strive and Prosper, a family-oriented group intended to help young people steer clear of gangs. Family members said he was unemployed.
“He was pulling guys out of gangs and trying to reunite them into families,” she said.
DeJesus was known among friends as Noodles. On a sign near the scene of the shooting, people wrote tributes: “Love you Noodles you will always be in my heart!!” and “I love you brother gone but never forgotten.”
Luis Ortiz, 22, said he was heartbroken when he heard his friend was shot during the parade.
“He was one of those laid-back, chill type of dudes,” Ortiz said, adding that he frequently talked about his 2-year-old son.
Benjamin Hidalgo, 18, a cousin to the victim, said he’d been hanging out with him, watching floats pass by minutes before the shooting. He heard a gunshot, looked over and could tell by the victim’s hair that it was his cousin on the ground.
“Everybody knew him as a funny person,” he said, adding that his cousin liked basketball and designer clothes.
Hidalgo said his cousin was the oldest child of eight, and that his fiancée is pregnant.
Garcia, who is the sister to Andres DeJesus’ mother, said her nephew was especially close to his mother, who had him when she was 13.
“They raised each other; they had that bond that nobody can break,” she said. “It’s like she just lost her partner in life. … I don’t even know how to comfort her.”
The Mexican Patriotic Committee on Monday released a statement from co-director Belda Garza:
“We are devastated by the turn of events that happened at the 50th anniversary of the Cinco de Mayo Parade in southwest Detroit. Our sincerest condolences go out to the family affected by this tragedy. The Patriotic Committee will soon meet with leadership and stakeholders in the community to assess the future of the Cinco (de) Mayo Parade.”
Contributing: Gina Damron, Detroit Free Press