MONTECITO HEIGHTS (CBSLA.com) — About 100 people came to pay their respects to two young women found dead in a Montecito Heights park last month.
KCAL9’s Erica Nochlin said the people who assembled for the vigil were incredibly sad but many talked about seeing justice.
The person, or persons, who killed Gabriela Calzada, 19, and Briana Gallegos, 17, are still at large.
Police remain tight-lipped about what may have led to the girls’ deaths but did say they are following several leads.
Nochlin said police led the way to block traffic so the mourners could come together as a community — to grieve and remember their friends.
Some came, they said, to also reclaim Earnest E. Debs Park.
They returned to the exact spot where the two young women were found dead last Wednesday.
“I just couldn’t believe it, I was in shock. They were like really outgoing and fun,” said friend Alexis Nicholas.
“I just hope they find the person who did this,” said friend Maria Coguox.
Teena Padilla says she was Gabriela’s case manger for the Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development. To her knowledge, she said the young woman wasn’t involved in gangs but wanted a better life and took free courses.
“Eager to get her career started with wild land firefighting, eager to bring in extra income into her home to help her family,” said Padilla.
The case manager says her group is helping support the family now and they’re heartbroken.Padilla also gets choked up.
“That I won’t get to hear her say ‘Miss miss, how can I help?’That’s the hardest part,” Padilla said.
The crowd was made up of friends of the two women but there were also just as many strangers, if not more. Nochlin said the strangers wanted to show support for the community; demanding justice for neighbors.
On the spot, one woman decided to give a generous donation to a reward fund leading to an arrest of the killer or killers.
“I’m going to put a $1,000 down, match me,” said Patricia Zamorano.
“If the whole community could give $5, $ 10, to raise the ante up — to do something about it and maybe somebody will be like I know who did it, then let’s do it,” Zamorano said.
They will pray and hope but the people attending the vigil know it often takes more to find and get justice.
Police also attended the vigil and have stepped up patrols in the park. They also wanted to try to reassure the crowd that they do not believe this crime is connected to any others.