Clovis Police officers Randy Pitcock, left, and James Dutcher patrol the campus of Clovis High School after the dismissal bell Friday afternoon in Clovis. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
A wooden board covers Carlos Perez’ bedroom window. Nine bullets pierced through it early Thursday morning; one ended Carlos’ life on the eve of his 11th birthday.
“He didn’t deserve this,” said Minerba Bailon, Carlos’ maternal aunt, her voice shaking. “Carlitos was a little kid who was always smiling, always making us laugh. He was a sweet, little boy.”
Patricia Perez, 19, the sister of Carlos, said it is hard to believe her brother is dead.
“It’s a nightmare,” she said.
Perez said her brother’s heart stopped 16 hours after he was shot while sleeping — “he didn’t have any blood flowing anymore,” she said.
“It’s hard for all of us,” Perez said. “But my mom is taking it especially hard. She doesn’t want anything from that apartment. She doesn’t ever want to go back.”
Perez said her mother was protective of her five sons and her four daughters.
Perez said she does not know why her house was shot at nine times. She did say that her brother, Ruben Perez, had been having problems at school with another Clovis High School student, Orlando Salas. He told his mother that he was threatened with a knife by Salas in the boys’ bathroom Wednesday, but he did not tell any school officials. She said her brother was not in a gang, that he did not do drugs, that he was a “calm” person.
Orlando Salas’ older brother, Edward Salas, 21, has been charged with murder in connection with Carlos’ shooting. Police are searching for Noe Torres, also a suspect in the crime. The Clovis News Journal could not reach members of the Salas family, though someone answered the phone at the Edward Salas residence and quickly hung up.
Tenants at the apartment complex where Carlos lived are shaken by the violent slaying.
Those who lived closest to Carlos said they heard the bullets ring out in the night. Some said they no longer feel safe in their homes, and will look for new places to live.
“It happened right underneath where I live,” said mother LaTashia McCarty.
“My kids are scared... There is no safe place but in the arms of the god,” McCarty said, a police patrol just few away, the car circling the complex repeatedly.
McCarty and other Gatewood Village Apartment tenants said they are a close-knit community. McCarty chatted with another resident from inside her car, their windows rolled down, their errands suspended temporarily. A Latino woman on the steps waved to a neighbor politely as she entered an apartment below.
Neighbors of the Perez family said the Perez’ were a quiet family who kept to themselves.
A neighbor who lived adjacent to Carlos spoke of her last memory of the boy.
“He was playing football, with my son, right over there,” said the neighbor, who asked not to be identified, pointing to a small patch of grass fenced off from a dirt alley.
She said a small birthday party had been planned for Carlos at her home, where he could play PlayStation with her sons.