Three years after a 14-year-old boy was fatally shot near his grandmother’s house in Riverside, prosecutors charged two men in connection with the killing.
Cristian Velasquez, 23, and Manuel Barbarin, 24, were charged Wednesday with first-degree murder along with allegations that the killing was a gang-related hate crime, according to the Riverside County district attorney’s office.
Police say that on Feb. 23, 2012, the two men opened fire on Lareanz Simmons, a popular Riverside Poly High School student who was walking to his grandmother’s house after borrowing a video game from a friend.
He managed to stagger close to his grandmother's driveway before he collapsed. A Junior ROTC member with aspirations of joining the military or becoming a police officer, Simmons died after several days on life support.
Prosecutors contend the slaying was racially motivated and gang-related. Simmons was not in a gang, but the suspects are members of the East Side Rivas, a notorious Riverside gang that’s historically targeted blacks as part of a black-brown race war, officials said.
Velasquez and Barbarin were already in custody on unrelated charges. Velasquez was previously convicted of felony battery on a custody officer.
A third person may have been involved with the killing, and anyone with information is asked to contact Riverside Police Department Det. Adrian Tillett at (951) 353-7105 or Det. Mike Medici at (951) 353-7104.
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