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Slain teen had dreams of life on the gridiron

December 20, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — Jesse Garcia III was a boy with dreams.

He wanted to be a professional football player and at age 16 was playing junior varsity football at Brawley Union High School and working toward his goal.

But one night in September, a bullet — likely not meant for him — struck his head. It was a wound that led to infection, fever and eventually caused his organs to fail.

This week, four months after the shooting, Jesse died. In coming days his family will bury him as police attempt to solve what has become a murder investigation.

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"It's not fair," said Dinah Rodriguez, Jesse's mother, this morning. "They do not have the right to take anyone's life."

On Sept. 16 Jesse was at a family gathering in Brawley. At some point, police say, a group of six people — thought to be gang members — walked up to the party. At least one person pulled out a gun and opened fire.

Jesse and one other person were hit. The other person was only grazed and was treated at the scene.

Jesse, shot once in the head, was taken to Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley, then was transported to a hospital in San Diego where it was first thought he might survive.

There have been no arrests made in the case.

Rodriguez said she does not know why the shooting occurred. She said as far as she knows there were no gang members at the party. She said certainly none of Jesse's family members is in a gang. Brawley police say there were gang members at the party.

Police said this morning Jesse was an innocent victim, caught in the middle of gang-related shooting.

Police say it would be possible to solve the murder if people would come forward with information. They said people have been reluctant to do so.

Rodriguez said she wants those who murdered her son to come forward. She said if they were "man enough" to pull the trigger and take her son away from her, they should be "man enough" to come forward.

"I pray that these people who shot my son would come forward and pay," she said. "It is something no mother should have to go through."

She added, "It's not fair that the person who shot my son can be out causing more problems. It's not right."

Still, she said, "God knows and God will pass judgment."

Rodriguez said before the shooting she was a mother watching her son grow up and follow his dreams of playing professional football.

He was a good kid who liked listening to music, being with his friends and family and playing the sport he loved. This morning she held a photograph of her son in his football uniform.

Following the shooting, Jesse was fighting for his life. In recent weeks he started to lose that battle as infection and fever caused his organs to shut down.

"There is nothing that could be done," Rodriguez said, adding her son died not from the bullet but from complications from his wound.

She said the family is doing its best to deal with the fact Jesse has died. She said it is hard to believe that one minute he was alive, the next he was taken away.

"That was my baby, you know," she said.

Brawley police say the investigation into the shooting will continue. They said anyone with information can contact Detective Greg Heath at 344-2111.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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