Bernal Heights resident Erick Balderas was not unlike most 21-year-olds. He liked to rap, enjoyed watching boxing and dreamed of one day becoming famous.
Unlike his peers, however, Balderas’ days of watching sports and daydreaming about a life in the spotlight are over. On Nov. 18, 2007, while waiting in a car outside a friend’s house on 23rd and Treat streets in the Mission district, Balderas was killed by gunmen who opened fire from a nearby vehicle.
According to the San Francisco Police Department officials, no suspects have been found and no motives uncovered. For Bernal Heights’ community activist Mauricio Vela, who knew Balderas from the time he was a child, the lack of progress in the case is disturbing.
"Erick wasn’t in any gangs, he wasn’t causing any trouble," Vela said. "His family members have a right to know what happened."
With Balderas in mind, Vela helped organize a public hearing on The City’s violence response services, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. tonight at 1390 Market St. Members from the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice are expected to attend the meeting.
Balderas was one of 14 homicide victims within the boundaries of the SFPD’s Mission Station in 2007. In the Ingleside Station boundaries, where Balderas lived in Bernal Heights, there were 17 homicides in 2007. Only Bayview Station recorded more homicides — 25 — than the Bernal Heights and Mission Stations in 2007.
"With any open homicide case there is always hope it will be solved," police Sgt. Neville Gittens said.
Balderas, who came to The City at age 3 from Mexico City, was working at the San Francisco Conservation Corps and at a hotel during the night, family members said. He was staying with relatives in Bernal Heights after his mom moved to San Jose with her three other children because of the lower cost of living.
"He was working two jobs and writing songs because he wanted to be a rapper," said Balderas’ aunt, Claudia Garcia. "He wanted to buy his mom a house and a car. He didn’t want her to have to work anymore."
Balderas’ mother, who emigrated from Mexico when her son was 8, expressed frustration with the lack of answers regarding her son’s death.
"I loved my son," said Angelica Garcia through the translation of her sister. "I want someone to tell me why this happened."