Two days after a bullet careened through the bedroom window of a 13-year-old Pasadena boy and killed him while he was playing video games, officials gathered outside City Hall to address the tragedy as well as emerging patterns of gun violence affecting the city.
Their pledges to bolster police patrols and try to get guns off the street came as more than 100 people including residents, city leaders, police and family gathered Monday night for a vigil in memory of the boy, Iran Moreno, an A student who loved sports and video games.
In the last two years, the Pasadena Police Department has confiscated more than 700 firearms, many from vehicles, waistbands and from residences as a result of search warrants, Deputy Chief Cheryl Moody said. Of those, 250 have been seized since January 2021.
“The threat of gun violence is a true danger, and the Pasadena Police Department is working diligently to get guns off the streets and out of the hands of those who intend to harm others,” Moody said. The department will continue would continue in its commitment to bring on extra patrols and intelligence gathering, “to combat this rash of shootings.”
“But we need your help,” she said. “We believe that there are people in the community and elsewhere that may have information and may help to stop the violence and bring those responsible to justice. We ask that you please come forward.”
Police believe that a stray bullet struck Iran when he was in his bedroom about 6 p.m. Saturday. He managed to stumble out of his room, clutching the wound, and then collapsed, family members said.
Iran was taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
For two days, Pasadena police officers have been working to find evidence or information that could lead to the shooter.
Investigators don’t believe Iran or his family were targeted.
“This was not the intended victim,” Moody said. “This was not the intended dwelling. We don’t know who they were shooting at or why.”
On Monday afternoon, 27-year-old Maria Balvaneda, Iran’s cousin, stood with her hands clasped in front of dozens of flickering candles that formed a growing memorial for the boy.
Balvaneda lives in a rear house on the same property as Iran and his parents.
She told The Times that on the evening of shooting, she heard two pops she thought were fireworks. She’d been getting ready to go out with her parents to a family gathering when her mother noticed flashing lights.
She stepped outside and saw her aunt and uncle standing by a tree. They told her Iran was shot and on his way to the hospital. She tried to console them, but her uncle was particularly shaken.
“My son died in my arms,” she recalled her uncle saying. “I know he’s gone.”
On Monday, Iran’s parents and siblings were struggling with the loss, Balvaneda said. Her uncle hasn’t wanted to eat and can’t get up on his own.
“All they’ve been doing is crying, him asking for his son, to bring his baby back,” she said. “It’s just very heartbreaking.”
Iran, she said, “had a great future ahead of him.” He loved basketball and soccer and excelled at school.
She lamented the violence: “There’s always shooting, always gang violence around. They’re always hurting the most innocent people.”
Mayor Victor Gordo, speaking Monday outside City Hall, pledged to “do things differently.”
“We can’t continue to take the same approach to public safety in this city or in the region and expect different results,” Gordo said.
The mayor said officials recently called on the Police Department to step up enforcement and increase the number of officers on the street.
“I renew my request that the Pasadena Police Department better and more thoroughly engage individuals who are engaged in gang activity and criminal activity throughout the city,” he said. “It has to start right here, right now. We cannot wait for another child or another member of this community to be harmed.”
Councilmember Jessica Rivas, whose district has been affected by many shootings, said “we can’t police ourselves out of this.”
“This is a much larger problem, and it’s one that we must solve,” Rivas said.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.