Victim’s name: Gilbert Garcia, 19
Where body found: 1800 block of E. 34th Ave.
Investigative agency: Denver Police Department
Date killed: Feb. 8, 2007
Cause of Death: Shot in head
Suspect: None identified
Gilbert Garcia had a different perspective than most kids.
Most teens play sports and work out with the dream of being a famous athlete or at least to be popular in school.
Gilbert was a body builder largely because he needed to be strong enough to help his grandfather.
Gilbert always helped his grandfather, but when he turned 15, he started bathing him and carrying him. He could do it because he lifted weights, his mother Melissa Rodarte said.
Juan Ortega called him “my big fella.”
He wanted to help people like his mother, a medical assistant, had always done. Also, a male nurse had for years cared for his grandfather and Gilbert admired him. He wanted to help people in the same way.
Though he was hampered by dyslexia, he studied hard and went to Adams State College in Alamosa on scholarship. He enrolled in nursing. He was the first one to ever go to college from his family.
Gilbert’s views about life were different than many of the other kids. Though gangs were running throughout the Cole neighborhood, he stayed clear while attending Bishop Machebeuf Catholic High School in Denver.
“His favorite saying was, ‘We have two strikes against us. We’re Hispanic males and we have to go to college,’ ” his grandmother Yolanda Ortega said.
His freshman year of college, he continued to get excellent grades. In early February of 2007 Gilbert was planning on coming home for the weekend. He decided to take an anatomy test a day early and after he got an A he jumped in his 1984 Mazda pickup truck and headed home. His arrival was a happy surprise.
His mother was a single mom and he often saw himself as a surrogate father to his younger sister even though she was only three years younger.
Yolanda Garcia was only two weeks from turning 15 and he was heavily involved in helping to plan her Quinceañera.
As was his custom he went to his sister’s parent-teacher conference with his mother that evening. Yolanda got to chose what they had for dinner that night and so they had Chinese.
During the dinner, Gilbert made an off-handed remark.
“ ‘This will be the last time we eat dinner together,’ ” Rodarte said.
She told him no, that he would go back to school but Denver was always his home.
“‘I’m going home, home, mom,’” Rodarte said he told her. “I think he always knew what was going to happen.”
A few hours later, he asked his grandfather if he wanted him to move him into his bed and he said no, he could wait.
Gilbert had something he wanted to do that night. He and two friends climbed into his pickup and headed to a friend’s house. They were going to burn some CDs for Yolanda’s Quinceañera.
It was about 8:45 p.m. A car immediately followed him when he pulled away from his house. Shortly afterward that car pulled back and a dark-colored car pulled up along-side Gilbert’s pickup truck at East Bruce Randolph Avenue and Williams Street at a stop sign. One shot was fired. It pierced Gilbert’s head and he died instantly.
Instead of a Quinceañera there was a funeral to attend.
Ten weeks later, a heart-broken Juan Ortega, 63, told his daughter “‘my big fella is here. I have to go now.’” He died later that day, she said.
Gilbert’s death was devastating to many people but it also touched many of Gilbert’s friends as well.
A year later, four kids who were going to drop out of high school decided to stick it out and graduate in honor of Gilbert, his mother said.
Although Gilbert was the first of the family to go to college, Yolanda will be the first to graduate. She’ll be a junior at Colorado State University this year, majoring in psychology and minoring in criminal justice.
No one has ever been arrested in Gilbert’s shooting. Some people speculated that his was shot in retaliation for another recent gang shooting.
But Gilbert didn’t have anything to do with gangs, his mother said. It was just random senseless violence two blocks from home.
Contact information: The Denver police department can be reached at 720-913-7867. Denver Post reporter Kirk Mitchell at 303-954-1206 or email@example.com