Special Reports

Victim's family reacts with disbelief at arrest of suspect

Family members of one of the victims who was gunned down six years ago are in shock and said they do not believe one of the suspects has been arrested.

"It's like this is a dream. I don't think I will believe it until I see him (Pedro Reyna Mendez) in person," said Alicia Magallon, sister-in-law of Rafael Magallon.

Magallon was one of five men killed in October 1987 at an auto body shop. On Sunday, police in McAllen, Texas, arrested Mendez on charges of first-degree aggravated murder and attempted murder.

Tuesday night, Magallon's brother, two sisters and sister-in-law, sat in the living room of their home in Burbank thinking back of that day when their brother was killed. Tears filled their eyes.

"Are they (police) sure they got the right guy?" Gabriel Magallon, kept asking in Spanish. "I can't believe that it's taken them six years to finally catch one of the guys who killed my brother," he said.

Family members said they tired to work with police six years ago in trying to catch the two men who were suspected of the slayings. "We gave them addresses in Mexico of family members and friends of the Mendez brothers. But for years we have sat around and waited and we have never heard anything. That's why it is so hard for us to believe that one of them has finally been caught," Gabriel Magallon said.

Family members said they started to believe rumors that circulated throughout the Hispanic community in Pasco that the case was never solved because it involved Mexicans.

"There were all these rumors that because it was Mexicans killing Mexicans, police were not paying much attention to the case," Alicia Magallon said.

The Magallon family said they also were unhappy with allegations that were brought years ago indicating that their brother was involved in drug dealings that resulted in his death.

"He was not involved in drugs. He just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time," said Alicia Magallon.

According to the family, Rafael Magallon went into the body shop that night to deliver a wedding invitation for a cousin. He never returned home.

Rafael Magallon had been living in the area for three years working as a field laborer at the time that he was murdered. He was 22.

His sisters - Amelia, 34, and Trinidad, 24 - said Tuesday night they are glad someone has been caught but also saddened that it took so long. "He was a hard worker. He died for no reason," Amelia Magallon said.

Parents of Rafael Magallon live in the Mexican state of Jalisco, and family members said they will be notified today about the arrest.

"Now that Mendez is caught, I hope justice is done and he is sentenced with the maximum punishment so he can pay for what he did," Gabriel Magallon said.

"I would like to ask him why he did what he did. There are a lot of questions that are unanswered," Alicia said.